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 rearing 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 the commitment from separated or divorced parents to always put their child's needs before their own issues. This means that both parents are still joint participants in the upbringing and activities of the child. This can be especially difficult, particularly for co-parents who experience frequent disagreements.

What Are the Benefits of Co-Parenting?

While co parenting can be very difficult to navigate before establishing a parenting plan, it is beneficial for not only the child, but also the parents. Some of the benefits for the children include:

  • Development of problem solving and conflict resolution skills
  • Witnessing respectful communication between parents promotes higher self-esteem and teaches good social skills
  • Feeling of security in their relationships with both parents because they are both still an active role in their life

Some of the benefits for co-parents include:

  • Less stress and tension between parents so they can focus on the well-being of their child
  • Parents are able to be an active participant in their child's life with less friction
  • Coordinating meetings with other adults in their child's life, such as teachers, coaches, and extended family, becomes less stressful

What is a Good Co-Parenting Schedule?

Creating a co-parenting schedule, or a parenting plan, is essential in successfully co-parenting. 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 one that 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. If there is concrete evidence of alcohol or drug abuse, neglect, or failing mental or physical health, this 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 do's and don'ts of co-parenting effectively.

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 kids well-being before your feelings towards your ex will help your child feel more secure in their relationship with both parents

Have Clear Co-Parenting Boundaries

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

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 will allow your child to feel supported, and encourage cordial communication between co-parents.

Talk to One Another About Changes

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

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 co-worker.

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

A parents 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.

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.

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 or religious leader. This person should be someone who can see both sides clearly and is capable of providing sound feedback.

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

Your child may be switching from two different households, but it's important that they still have a sense of family. Remember – you are both the adults in this situation. Being kind and to one another will help foster a good co-parenting relationship.

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, will do nothing but negatively impact your child's sense of security and teach them to be disrespectful. It can also make them second guess their relationship with that spouse, which can damage their self worth.

Don't Engage in Manipulation

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

What Are the Best Co-Parenting Apps in Wisconsin?

Even families that are intact have difficulty communicating and scheduling. Luckily, there are several apps that have made the logistical side of co-parenting very easy.

  • Our Family Wizard – This program allows you to write communication, schedule, and send invoices for expenses. There is also the option for a “tone-monitor” in order to effectively 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 on 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.

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, dictated by how collaborative 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[1]. 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.

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, where the parents can see each other for drop offs, but they couldn't sit together at a family function. In either situation, this should be decided on based on what is in the best interest of the child.


Co-parenting looks different for every family based on what their needs are. 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 the Wisconsin county court’s website, or you can visit our parenting plan page to find a downloadable copy.

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 are in agreement 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 is pending. 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 already exist, causing a marriage to end. 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 towards making a very emotional decision. However, don't be afraid to experience conflict[2]. If you foresee a conflict approaching, 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

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.

How do I co-parent with a toxic ex?

Co-parenting with a toxic ex requires the strict 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. 

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. 

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

In the case of a child who is born to unmarried parents, In Wisconsin, the mother would have legal custody of the child.

How does Wisconsin family court determine if a parent is unfit? 

Wisconsin does not easily terminate a parents rights, and does not look well on parents who try to have their ex’s parental rights revoked for no good reason. Some examples of an unfit parent are as follows:

  • Child Abandonment
  • Criminal History
  • Drug/alcohol addiction
  • Mentally unfit
  • Refusing to take responsibility for the child. 

Where can I learn about Wisconsin child custody laws?? 

To learn about child custody laws, Wisconsin State Law Library has information for all different legal topics, including Child Custody Laws. The Wisconsin State Bar is another option for child custody and placement laws. 

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