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When children are involved in a divorce, the state of Wisconsin requires parents create a parenting plan to determine custody and visitation. We have created an easy to use PDF to help complete the court form FA-4147 (click here to download a copy). In the following paragraphs you will learn how to fill out the Wisconsin parenting plan as well as learn a few negotiation techniques.family paper cut-out

Step 1  – Determining Legal Custody

The first step in the parenting plan is determining legal custody. Remember, legal custody means the responsibility to make decisions for the child such as where the child goes to school, where the child receives medical treatment, religious upbringing, etc. This is different from physical placement.

Step 2 – Determining Physical Custody or Placement

Today more than ever there are many options when determining physical placement. Parents have become increasingly creative when setting up physical placement schedules. Below are a few options to consider when deciding what do about physical placement. The options are described in 14 day windows as this is how the FA-4147 will be filled out under the physical placement section.

Two Overnights or Every Other Weekend
Example: Friday evening to Sunday evening every other weekend

Three Overnights or Extended Every Other Weekends
Example: Friday evening to Monday morning every other weekend

Four Overnights or Every Other Weekend plus Weekly Overnights
Example: Friday evening to Sunday evening plus every Wednesday evening to Thursday morning

 Five Overnights or Extended Every Other Weekends plus Weekly Overnights
Example: Friday evening to Monday morning every other weekend plus every Wednesday evening to Thursday morning

Six Overnights or Split Mid-weeks
Example: Parent 1 – Sunday evening to Thursday morning Parent 2 – Thursday evening to Sunday morning

Seven Overnights or Split Mid-weeks and every other Weekend
Example: Parent 1 – Monday evening to Wednesday morning plus every other weekend Friday evening to Sunday evening Parent 2 – Wednesday evening to Friday morning plus every other weekend Friday evening to Sunday evening

Step 3 – Working Out Summer & Holiday Visitation

The next step in the process is determining summer and holiday visitation. Items in this section include the following calendar holidays:

  • Mother’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Father’s Day
  • 4th of July
  • Labor Day
  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Day
  • New Year’s Eve
  • New Year’s Day
  • Religious Holidays
  • Mother’s Birthday
  • Father’s Birthday
  • Children’s Birthdays
  • Spring Break
  • Summer Break

These items will need to be discussed and determined. Normally parents will give the other parent birthday in exchange for their birthdays as well as exchange Mother’s Day for Father’s Day every year. Other holidays will be divided up and normally flip flop between parents every year.

Step 4 – Child Care Needs and Expenses

The next section of the form FA-4147 Parenting Plan is about necessary child care needs for the children. Between you and your spouse you will need to decide if child care is needed and if so, who will pay. Many times spouses will split the costs if they are maintaining joint custody. Child care is an expensive service, so proper consideration here is critical.

Step 5 – Visitation Transportation Issues

In this section you and your spouse will need to decide how the children will be transported during times of visitation. This may seem silly, but parents take advantage of one another. This section will outline who will transport the children to and from visitations with the other parent. Two other items in this section are where the drop off point will take place and how transportation expenses will be handled.

Step 6 – Child Support

Child support is more complex than the form lays out, but in the FA-4147 requires a determination of how child support will be laid out. There are two options. The first option is abiding by the child support guidelines for your state, which are described here. The second option is finding agreement between you and your spouse. For instance, if you and your spouse agree to $400 per month you can do this. Another thing to consider as well are the expenses of the child’s extra activities. You can learn more about child support and expenses here.

Step 7 – Agreeing on a School for the Children

The next section of the FA-4147 parenting plan determines a school for the children. Take time to think about what your wants hear as what is agreed upon in this document is what will be enforced by the court. For instance, if you think you may want to send your children to private school instead of public school, but you are unsure include an amendment to this section. As stated above, this is an easy form to fill out, take careful consideration when filling out the details as the court will enforce the decisions you make here.

Step 8 – Place of Employment & Residence

It is required by the state you disclose your current employer as well as residence. This information will be used as precedence in the agreement with regard to distance driving to and from visitation appointments, child support, and issues regarding school.

Step 9 – Health Care for Children: Mine, Yours, or Both

Under the health care section parents need to describe and come to agreement on who the healthcare providers will be for the children. These include:

  • Primary Care Doctors
  • Optometrists
  • Dentist
  • Orthodontists

Not only do parents need to agree on who will provide care, but also who’s insurance will cover the children. Many parents choose to double cover the children, covering them under both insurance plans. Another consideration about healthcare are the out of pocket expenses and who will pay for them when insurance does not cover the cost. Most parents split the costs, but this is another factor that needs to be considered.

Step 10 – Religious Upbringing

Religious upbringing for the children can be a very heated and emotional topic in some divorces. This is especially true when there are two very strong opinions. When this happens someone always loses. It is very hard to find middle ground.

Step 11 – Nurturing Child/Parent Contact

It is the responsibility of both parents to encourage relationship building with the other parent. This can be hard, but the stance of the Wisconsin Family Court takes on this topic is one where children are best served with both parents in their lives. In this section of the FA-4147 it describes how you will assist your children in maintaining a relationship with your soon to be ex-spouse. Such tactics include:

  • Telephone contact
  • Assisting Children with writing Cards/Letters
  • Email
  • Providing Copies of School Projects
  • Providing Copies of Photographs of Children in Activities
  • Assisting in Gift Purchasing for Other Parent’s Birthday or Holidays
  • Creating Website for Posting Pictures
  • Etc

Step 12 – Issue Resolution Plan

The last section of the FA-4147 Parenting Plan is issue resolution. Let’s face it, you and your spouse disagree about things now and this will not stop. In this section you will describe how you will resolve issues that come up about your children. This is not going to be easy, but the court wants to ensure you and your spouse do not end up in court every time there is a disagreement. There are several options to select from, but you can also create you own issue resolution plan.

Trisha Festerling, J.D.

Family Law Attorney

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