Family, Criminal & Children's Court Attorneys Since 1991

We Can Help With Child Custody And Parenting Time Matters

Child custody issues often highlight all that is difficult about divorce and family law. In a divorce, two people agree, to varying degrees, that they no longer wish to be married. If they have children, they then have to reach an agreement regarding how they will raise their children. This can be done one of several ways. At Thelen & Associates, LLC, we can help you understand your options and decide which path is best for you in your situation.

Child Custody And Placement In Wisconsin

There are two important elements of your custody agreement. The first is child custody. This is sometimes referred to as legal custody or decision-making authority. This is the right and responsibility to make important decisions for your children regarding their education, religion, health care, and when they may obtain a driver’s license, etc. This authority may be given solely to one parent, but in most cases, it is a joint authority given to both parents.

The other element is what is known in Wisconsin as placement. This is sometimes called physical custody. This is where the child will spend their time and sleep at night. Placement schedules can vary widely; if the parents can develop a schedule that is in their child’s best interest, they may submit it to the court. If this is possible, it will likely produce a placement schedule that will work best for your family.

Mediation May Be Required

If the parents cannot agree, mediation will become mandatory and will be used to work out a solution. We can advise you during this process. However, during mediation, you will negotiate directly with your former spouse and work to reach a viable agreement.

If you cannot reach a mediated placement schedule, a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) may be appointed by the court and will examine all aspects of your family’s situation. The GAL will provide the court with a report that it will use to create a placement schedule. The judge will then impose a plan based on the child’s best interests.

A Schedule That Works For Your Children

Developing a workable parenting time schedule and agreeing on placement can be complex. If there is no agreement, then the details of the schedule will be influenced by a number of factors. In some cases, the preference of an older child is taken into consideration by the courts.

Parenting schedules are unique to each family. The parenting time schedule of a parent who works rotating shifts or travels frequently will look very different from that of a parent who works 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and rarely travels. Parenting time schedules and placement that works for toddlers may not work well for teens.

Our team is committed to helping you develop a plan that works with your life and your family. Cooperation may be difficult, but a careful parenting time schedule can help create the routine and predictability that can help children adjust and minimize conflict in the relationship.

What Rights Do Divorcing Parents Have? Answers To Common Questions.

At Thelen & Associates, LLC, we know you have many questions about your rights and obligations to your children after your divorce. Here are some common concerns and explanations. For specific answers to your own issues, call 262-200-8002 to speak with attorney Kris Thelen or a member of our team.

What factors does Wisconsin law use in making these custody determinations?

If you and your partner were never married, it’s important to establish paternity. After that, in most cases, parents are allowed to work with their attorneys to create parenting plans (when each parent sees and has responsibility for the child) and custody plans (with which parent the child lives and which parents make which decisions for the child). Parents are sometimes able to come to an agreement and put it in writing outside court. If the plan is in the best interest of the children, it is likely the court will approve it. Mediation is a process that works for couples who are not contentious. Parenting time and custody agreements are often created in mediation sessions.

Do both mothers and fathers have equal rights?

Children benefit from both of their parents being active in their lives. No longer does a mother automatically get sole custody or more time with the children. These days, joint custody is common. Each parent has a right and a responsibility to spend meaningful time with their children (this used to be called “visitation”). Every divorce is different. These days, parents often have jobs or lifestyles that require custom placement and custody plans. Plans can be created and then agreed upon by both parents in mediation.

What role does mediation play in resolving custody and parenting issues?

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). For couples who are divorcing amicably (with little or no fighting or disagreement), mediation is often the route that works best. In mediation, parents work together with their attorneys to create parenting time and placement (custody) plans that work for everyone. Most parents prefer to create their own plans as opposed to being given a plan by a judge or court. Many couples find that the mediation process, because they work together, is less stressful for children and gives relationships a better chance to heal. Moving forward, this means that parents can often be more effective co-parenting partners. Mediation for custody and placement is required for all cases where there is no agreement.

What if there are allegations of domestic violence?

Domestic violence in a relationship can affect the way a case is undertaken (for example, mediation may not be a good choice for couples with a history of violence). If one parent has a history of violence, abuse or neglect, this can also affect placement and custody. Parents must follow court orders. Therefore, if the court order states that a parent has placement, then the other parent needs to make sure to follow that. If one parent feels the children are unsafe with the other parent, then the concerned parent needs to ask the court to change the placement order. This is done typically with the help of their attorney.

What is nesting?

Nesting is an alternative to traditional joint custody arrangements where the children shuttle between each parent’s homes. Nesting works the opposite way: the children remain in one home, which the parents move into when it is their parenting time. You and your co-parent can agree on a month-to-month or week-to-week schedule, depending on what works for you. When parents can afford to maintain a third living place, nesting can benefit young children by providing stability in where they live.

When can you change a child custody agreement?

Whether your original child custody order has a problem, or circumstances have changed over time, you might need to modify your custody agreement. You need to go back to court to ask for these changes if they are significant, such as switching from joint custody to sole custody. In Wisconsin, a parent requesting a modification within two years of the order going into effect must show that its terms are not in the children’s best interests and are harming their physical and emotional well-being.

If two years have passed, the standard changes slightly. The parent requesting the change must show 1) the proposed change is in the children’s best interests, and 2) a “substantial change of circumstances” has happened. No matter how much time has passed, the other parent has the right to contest the proposed changes in court. If you and your co-parent have a cordial relationship, you might be able to negotiate a settlement out of court. Otherwise, the court will hold a hearing and consider arguments from both sides.

Reach Out To Us

We can help you with all elements of custody, placement and parenting time. Call our Waukesha or Mukwonago offices at 262-200-8002 or use our online form to request an appointment.