Co-Parenting in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, co-parenting refers to sharing parenting duties during and after a divorce or separation. Creating a parenting plan for child-raising helps families function. It helps parents with shared custody learn how to put the child's best interest first. And parenting together ensures that the child feels secure in their relationships with both parents.

What Exactly Is Co-Parenting?

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

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The Benefits of Co-Parenting

While co-parenting can be difficult to navigate, benefits include security, structure, a more balanced life, and stress reduction for children and parents. Below are some examples.

Benefits for Children:

  • Exposure to positive conflict resolution develops problem-solving skills.
  • Respectful communication between parents promotes high self-esteem.
  • Each parent having an active role in their life gives them security in their relationships.

Benefits for Co-Parents:

  • Parents not having to fight to actively participate in their child's life means there is less conflict.
  • Confidence in the other parent gives each parent well-deserved breaks.
  • Less stress and tension between parents lets them focus on the well-being of their child.
  • Good communication makes a lot of things easier like coordinating important meetings and events in the child's life.

Good Co-Parenting Schedule

Creating a co-parenting schedule is an essential part of any custody and placement agreement. The placement schedule is a part of the parenting plan. In all, the parenting plan outlines who will have the child at any given point and creates plans for health care, education, religion, and more. The parenting plan is required in any divorce or separation in Wisconsin that involves kids.[1]

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. But not all schedules are 50/50, specifically when it is not in the child's best interest. This could be due to a parent not being ready to take on the responsibility or due to abuse or addiction.

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Tips for Co-Parenting

The co-parenting dynamic can be difficult to navigate after a separation. Below you'll find some tips on how to maintain a healthy relationship with your child and co-parent.

1. Put Your Kids First

It's important to remember that it is not just you and your ex 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. Things like conversational boundaries and establishing what should and should not be discussed create clear expectations for how much each of you needs to know about the other party's life.

3. Remain Flexible

While it's important for your child 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 extracurricular activities, an upcoming event, or adjustments in your own schedule that could affect the parenting schedule.

5. Be Respectful and “Professional”

It is not required for you to be friends with your ex 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. You don’t have to be friends with all your coworkers, but you do need to be able to work with them.

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 they have an ulterior motive, but the reality could just be that they are listening to the desires of the child and it is what works best for them.

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's not productive to ignore their impact on your child's life. 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. The courts also look negatively on actions like this.

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[2] – 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 app is used by many co-parents and is a favorite of the Wisconsin court systems.
  • Talking Parents[3] – This app gives parents a secure way to communicate that keeps track of conversations. It can even record phone calls and it gives you transcripts of them. There is also a calendar to keep both parties up to date.
  • Video Chatting (apps such as Google Meet[4] 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.

Co-Parenting Versus Parallel Parenting

Co-parenting and parallel parenting are two different types of parenting. Which to pick depends 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 and allows the child to move from one house to the other easily. Ideally, this type of parenting sees minimal amounts of tension.

Parallel parenting is used by parents who cannot interact without there being high amounts of 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 hard for kids. However, it may be the best option, especially in abusive or high conflict relationships.

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 and the parents.

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. Which method to use depends 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 over text or a parenting app, and everything is kept completely separate. Parallel parenting is a last resort since this dynamic can be emotionally hard for a child. However, especially in abusive or high conflict relationships, it will do more good than harm to do parallel parenting.

Since there is no black-and-white when it comes to parenting, there are 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 and parents.

Considerations

Where do I Get a Co-Parenting Plan Worksheet?

Parenting plans are required by the courts in Wisconsin for any divorce or separation case 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.

How Do I 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 custody 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 to enforce the custody 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 for an emergency order. To do this, they file a Motion for Ex Parte Order. Due to Covid-19, all emergency hearings 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.

How Do I 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.[5] If you see a conflict approaching, be sure to keep calm. It helps keep things smooth if you can pay attention to your word choice, tone, and demeanor. These things help a conflict not become something bigger.

Finally, conflict isn't about winning. Conflict is about reaching an agreement that is in your child's best interest.

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 the custody and placement of your child. This outlines everything from who makes decisions 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. If it is a smaller issue, then the 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 child. 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 sole custody of the child. They have sole custody only until paternity is established.

References: Videos by youtube.com/c/sterlinglawyers | 1. WI Statute, 767.41 § (1m). Custody and Physical Placement. | 2. Our Family Wizard. | 3. Talking Parents. | 4. Google Meet. | 5. 7 Strategies to Overcome Conflict in Co-Parenting. Our Family Wizard. (n.d.)