Custody & Divorce in Wisconsin

Understand what courts consider when awarding custody during a divorce

Custody and Divorce in WI

When parents make the decision to move forward with a divorce, they must also decide custody and placement of their children. In almost every divorce that involves children, the court wants parents to complete a co-parenting plan.

What is the process?

Step 1: Developing a Plan

After the initial divorce papers are filed you should begin immediately working on your financial disclosure statement (otherwise known as FDS) and your proposed parenting plan.

The FDS is required to disclose your assets and debts. This information will be used to help set child support payments. The parenting plan is a document outlining the weekly overnight schedule, as well as the resolutions to any future issues like who gets the child during holidays and birthdays. The weekly overnight schedule will also be taken into account when determining child support payments.

Step 2: Parenting Class & Mediation

If you or your spouse are unable to come to an agreement regarding the parenting plan the court will order the parents to pay for parenting classes as well as mediation. The court uses these tools to help parents come to an agreement.

Step 3: Failed Mediation = Court Ordered Plan

If mediation fails, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem (otherwise known as GAL), who is an attorney for the child. The GAL works for the court to put the child in the best possible scenario at the end of the trial, not for the parents or on the behalf of the parents. The GAL will investigate the work schedule of the parents, who has been the primary caregiver to the child thus far in their life, and the willingness of each parent to support the other parent's involvement in the child's life.

After the GAL completes their investigation they will make a recommendation to the court regarding the custody (major decision making) and placement (where the child resides and when). The court, in 90% of cases, will take the recommendation of the GAL, which means your interactions with the GAL are important.

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Types of Child Custody in Wisconsin

Other Child Custody Options

Alternating Custody

Sometimes referred to as divided custody, alternating custody occurs when the child lives with one parent for a semester or several months of a year and then spends time living with the other parent for another extended period of time. The length of stay with each parent is not necessarily proportionate or relative to how long the child previously spent with the other parent.

During these stays, the parent with whom the child is currently living with is the provider for that child and oversees all responsibility of the child.

Shared Custody

Shared custody is a pretty common custody model. It occurs when the child is with one parent for a set amount of time and then with the other parent for a similar amount of time.

Unlike alternating custody, both parents the responsibilities of the child. So even if the child is not presently spending time with you, your rights as a parent are never minimized or taken away from you.

Bird's Nest Custody

Bird's nest custody removes the burden of going from one parents home to the other. In this custody setting, the parent's share a residency where the child will always reside. The parents then alternate who stays at that residence and when.

This custody option provides stability for the child and allows them to have the feeling of always having a home regardless of which parent is staying there with them at the time.

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