Co-Parenting in Wisconsin

Co-parenting refers to the shared parenting relationship during and after a separation or divorce. Creating a parenting plan for child-raising helps parents with shared custody learn how to effectively put the children's best interest first. Equal parenting time ensures that the children feel secure in the parenting relationship.

What Exactly Is Co-Parenting?

Co-parenting is separated or divorcing parents committing to always put their child's needs before issues they have with each other. Co-parenting means that both parents are joint participants in the upbringing and activities of the child. This can be difficult, particularly for co-parents who experience frequent disagreements, but in the end it is worth it.

What Are the Benefits of Co-Parenting?

While co-parenting can be very difficult to navigate before establishing a parenting plan, it is beneficial not only for the child but also the parents.

Benefits for Children:

  • Development of and exposure to positive problem-solving and conflict resolution skills
  • Respectful communication between parents promotes high self-esteem and teaches good social skills
  • Feeling secure in their relationships with both parents because they are both still an active role in their life

Benefits for Co-Parents:

  • Parents don't have to fight to actively participate in their child's life, so there is less conflict
  • Allows for breaks in parenting because parents are confident the other parent has it taken care of
  • Less stress and tension between parents so they can focus on the well-being of their child and take time off
  • Coordinating important meetings and events is easier in the child's life is smoother, such as with teachers, coaches, and extended family 

What Is a Good Co-Parenting Schedule?

Creating a co-parenting schedule, or a parenting plan, is an essential piece of the custody and placement process. This document outlines who will have the children at any given point, as well as agreed-upon plans for health care, education, religion, and more. The parenting plan is required in any divorce or separation in Wisconsin that involves kids.

A good co-parenting schedule is made in the best interest of the child. Generally, Wisconsin state courts try to ensure that the child has an equal amount of time with each parent, as is the case with a 50/50 schedule. Concrete evidence of alcohol or drug abuse, child neglect, or failing mental or physical health will impact the outcome of the co-parenting schedule.

Tips for Co-Parenting

The co-parenting dynamic can be difficult to navigate after a separation. Below you'll find some dos and don'ts of co-parenting effectively.

1. Put Your Kids First

It's important to remember that it is not just you and your ex-spouse who experienced the stress of a divorce or separation. Placing your kid's well-being before your feelings towards your ex will help your child feel more secure in their relationship with both parents

2. Have Clear Co-Parenting Boundaries

Setting clear boundaries with your co-parent will help both of you keep a respectful, yet separate, co-parenting relationship. Little things like conversational boundaries and establishing what should and should not be discussed creates a clear expectation that neither of you is entitled to know every aspect of each other’s lives.

3. Remain Flexible

While it's important, for your child’s sake, to have stability and consistency in the co-parenting schedule, you must also try to stay flexible. Sometimes schedules change, and things come up for either parent. Giving each other the benefit of the doubt allows your child to feel supported and encourages positive communication between co-parents.

4. Talk to One Another About Changes

Keep your co-parent in the loop regarding changes that could affect their time with the child. Whether that is a change in their extracurricular activity schedule, an upcoming event, or adjustments in your own schedule which could affect the parenting schedule.

5. Be Respectful and “Professional”

It is not required of you to be friends with your ex in order to be a good co-parent. By setting conversational boundaries, it is possible to treat the co-parenting dynamic as if it is a business interaction and interact with them as if they are a coworker.

6. Remember That “Fair” Doesn't Always Mean “Equal”

A parent's time with their child is their own concern, but it can be frustrating when one parent is scheduling events or activities during “your” time. It is easy to assume that this is because of some ulterior motive from the other parent, but the reality could just be that they are listening to the desires of the child and what works best for them. This also comes into play when the courts have to make decisions because they decide based on what is fair for the child, not the parents.

7. Be Accessible to Your Co-Parent

Make it a goal to have regular communication with your co-parent regarding issues with your child, changes to the schedule, or adjustments to drop off/pick up times. While it's natural to want to avoid talking with your ex, it is not productive. This is similar to hearing from your child's teacher where you want to hear from them regularly, not just when there's a problem

8. Find a Support Network for Difficult Times

It is natural that there will be times where tensions are running high. At times like this, it's important to have someone that you can talk these issues out with, whether that is a friend, family member, or online support group. This person should be someone who can see both sides clearly and is capable of providing sound feedback.

9. Don't Ignore Your Co-Parent's Birthday or Special Holidays

Even if the other parent's birthday is on your day, maybe you can switch days or let them have the child for dinner because it's healthy to respect the other parent. Your child is switching from two different households, so it's important that they still have a sense of family and are able to be a part of celebrations.

10. Never Badmouth Your Ex, No Matter How Angry You Are

Speaking disrespectfully about your ex in front of your child or allowing someone else to do so negatively impacts your child's sense of security and teaches them to be disrespectful. It can also make them second guess their relationship with that spouse, which can damage their self-worth. This action is also looked on negative by the courts. 

11. Don't Engage in Manipulation

Using your child as a way to manipulate your ex harms the child, now and in their future. Remember, you are raising a child with their own feelings and thoughts, not a bargaining chip.

What Are the Best Co-Parenting Apps in Wisconsin?

Even the healthiest co-parents have difficulty communicating and scheduling sometimes. Luckily, there are several apps that have made the logistical side of co-parenting easier.

  • Our Family Wizard – This program allows you to send messages, schedule events, and send invoices for expenses. There is also the option for a “tone monitor” in order to better communicate. This is a favorite of the Wisconsin court system.
  • Kidganizer – This program allows you to organize personal and financial data, among other things. It also alerts you to upcoming appointments and necessary reminders.
  • Custody Junction – This allows parents to execute custody and placement orders, as well as schedule visitation up to two years in advance. This information can also be shared with a guardian ad litem.
  • Video Chatting apps such as Google Duo and Facetime – Video chatting is a great way for co-parents to connect with their child face to face and grow their relationship, even when they are away. This also helps kids when they miss the other parent.

What Is the Difference Between Co-Parenting and Parallel Parenting?

Co-parenting and parallel parenting are two different types of parenting implemented by separated parents, depending on how collaboratively the parents can work together after their separation.

Co-parenting is used by parents who can problem-solve and work together for the best interest of the child. The interaction between the parents is cordial, which allows the child to move from one house to the other easily. Ideally, this type of parenting sees minimum tension.

Parallel parenting is used by parents who cannot interact or problem-solve without high conflict. Most of the communication is written, and everything is kept completely separate. Parallel parenting should only be viewed as a last resort since this dynamic can be emotionally detrimental to a child. However, especially in abusive or high conflict relationships, it may do more good than harm to do parallel parenting.

Since there is no black-and-white when it comes to parenting, there could be some families that are a mix of co and parallel parenting. This could mean the parents see each other for drop-offs, but they can't sit together at a family function. In either situation, this should be decided based on what is in the best interest of the child.


Co-parenting looks different for every family based on their needs. Here are some details that should be considered by every family with a co-parenting dynamic.

Where to Get a Co-Parenting Plan Worksheet

Parenting plans are required by the courts in Wisconsin for any divorcing family with children. This is to ensure that the parents have a well-documented plan for how they will parent the child once the divorce is finalized. This worksheet can be found on our website on our parenting plan page or the Wisconsin county court’s website.

Co-Parenting During COVID-19 in Wisconsin

Family legal issues vary largely depending on the situation, and the Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone differently. Wisconsin courts have modified some procedures in response.

  • Stipulation to Change Custody, Placement, or Child Support
    When co-parents agree on changing a current court order, they can stipulate this by filing a stipulation. During Covid-19, it is possible to temporarily modify placements to protect the health of the child in cases where one or both parents is a frontline worker.
  • Notice of Motion and Motion to Change Placement/Custody/Child Support
    When co-parents cannot resolve a custody or placement dispute, filing an Order to Show Cause may be the next step for the party asking for the change. This should be accompanied by an affidavit to explain the reasons behind the request. If the co-parent is filing an Order to Show Cause that includes a request for contempt, this still requires personal service, regardless of Covid-19 “Safer At Home” orders.
  • Notice of Hearing and Motion to Enforce Physical Placement Order
    If a parent is refusing to comply with the placement order, the other parent can file a Motion to Enforce Physical Placement Order. During the “Safer At Home” order, these contested hearings will take place via Zoom or an alternative video conferencing platform.
  • Motion for Ex Parte Order
    If the situation is an emergency and there is evidence that a child is in danger of imminent harm, then a party can file a Motion for Ex Parte Order. Due to Covid-19, all emergency hearing and ex parte relief must be accompanied by a sworn affidavit which includes concrete facts that demonstrate the need for court intervention.
  • Petition for Appointment of a Guardian ad Litem
    In some cases, a guardian ad litem (GAL) may be needed to represent the interests of the child during a divorce, legal separation, or motion to change custody and placement. During Covid-19, GAL’s have been using virtual methods to meet with parties and their children.

Resolving Co-Parenting Disagreements

Conflicts and disagreements are bound to happen when raising a child, especially when there are disagreements that lead to the end of the marriage. Learning how to resolve these quickly will be the most beneficial for your child. The key thing to keep in mind is this: Your child should always come first. Before starting a conversation or decision-making process with the co-parent, resolve to keep the conversation on the child.

Fixating on past disagreements can reopen old wounds surrounding your divorce and could lead to making a very emotional decision. However, don't be afraid to experience conflict.[1] If you foresee a conflict approach, be sure to keep calm. Paying attention to your word choice, tone, and demeanor can go a long way towards keeping a disagreement from becoming something bigger.

Finally, conflict isn't about winning. Conflict is about reaching an agreement that is in your child's best interest and protects them from the conflict which could be harmful to them.

Co-Parenting With a Narcissist

Struggling to co-parent with a difficult ex? Our attorneys break down their tips for co-parenting with a toxic ex here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a co-parenting agreement?

A co-parenting agreement, also known as a parenting plan, outlines all the necessary information on how things are going to work moving forwards in regards to your shared child or children. This outlines everything from custody to holiday schedules to how to communicate last-minute changes.

How do I co-parent with a narcissist?

Co-parenting with a narcissist requires the strict outlining and enforcement of boundaries. It is likely that your toxic ex will try and compete with you and drag your name through the mud. A court order can be used to protect your child's best interest by reinforcing your boundaries with the law.
Co-parents should communicate as often as necessary. This will depend on the relationship parents have but think of it this way: If something happens that if it happened at the other parent's house you would want to know, probably tell them. Communication does not have to be all negative either, it could be that you got a call from your child's teacher saying they are doing really well in school.

What to do when parents disagree on parenting?

How disagreements are resolved should be outlined in the parenting plan. If your parenting plan is not specific enough, then have a conversation with the other spouse and try to work it out. Ultimately, if it is a smaller issue, then there person with the child at that time gets to decide, but if it is a major decision, then refer to your custody agreement to see if one party has final decision-making rights.

How do you co-parent with someone you still love?

The best thing to do is keep in mind that you are doing this for your children. It's not going to be easy, but it will get better as you grow comfortable in your new situation. You can use methods to distance yourself such as only talking over text or through an app like Our Family Wizard. You co-parent because you have to for your children, not because it's easy.

Are parenting classes required in Wisconsin?

Parenting classes are required before a divorce can be finalized, however, each county has its own policies regarding which classes are acceptable. These classes can be taken online or in person.

Is Wisconsin a mother state?

Wisconsin is not considered a mother state. All court decisions regarding children are made to be in the best interest of the child without preference for either parent.

Who has custody of a child when the parents are not married in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, when a child is born to unmarried parents, legally the mother has custody of the child.

References: Videos by |1. 7 Strategies to Overcome Conflict in Co-Parenting. Our Family Wizard. (n.d.)

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