Child Custody Lawyers

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Child custody lawyers Wisconsin

Wisconsin Child Custody Attorneys

What rights and responsibilities come with legal custody in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin divorce law defines legal child custody as the right and responsibility to make major decisions concerning the child unless otherwise specified by the court in the final judgment. 

What are considered major  decisions?

Major decisions include:

Joint Legal


Both parties share legal custody and neither party's legal custody rights are superior unless specified in the final order. A parenting plan can be created to work out parenting issues and childcare arrangements. This is the typical 50/50 custody most people think of.

Under Wisconsin statute, joint custody is presumed to be in the best interest of the children. 50/50 custody means that parties must work together in order to make major decisions affecting the life of their child or children. Both parents have the equal ability to make major parental decisions for the children, i.e. schooling, religion, marriage as a minor or joining the military as a minor.

If the parties are unmarried at the time of the child’s birth and they do not acknowledge paternity at the time of birth, it is presumed the mother has sole custody until a paternity action is established.

Sole Legal


Only one party has legal custody.

Getting sole custody is difficult. The easiest way to receive sole custody is if both parties agree that custody should be granted to one parent. In most cases, courts will follow what the parties agree on if they agree that it is in the child’s best interest. The court will also consider ordering sole custody to one parent if the other parent cannot perform their parental responsibilities or if the parents choose not to agree on major decisions regarding their children. 

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Mediation for Child Custody:

When the parties are unable to come to an agreement on a custodial issue, they can hire a private mediator to assist them in the decision. If the disagreement is brought to the court's attention, the court may issue an order requiring mediation. A court may also appoint a Guardian ad Litem to represent the best interest of the children while the case is pending. A neutral third-party mediator can be helpful when resolving disputes for the best interest of the children.

Modification of Child Custody:

When there is a dispute on an existing court order for child custody, parties may want to go to court to ask to modify the child custody. It is difficult to modify child custody within the first two years of a final hearing.

For the court to approve a modification of child custody you need:

  • Evidence of physically or emotionally harmful circumstances for the child
  • Evidence that changing custody would be in the best interest of the child

What is the difference between custody and placement?

  • Legal Custody: The legal authority to make major decisions affecting the lives of your children. These major decisions for the children include schooling, religion, marriage as a minor or joining the military as a minor.
  • Physical Placement: The right of a parent to have the child physically placed with them, and the right and responsibility for the parent to make routine, daily decisions of the child. The routine decisions cannot conflict with the legal custodian of the child. Some examples of routine decisions include bed-time, extracurricular activities, and homework.

Both custody and placement can be modified and have separate processes of modification

All-inclusive family law services

Our Milwaukee family law attorneys will ease your family back into stability as efficiently as possible, placing the well-being of your child above all else. From child custody mediation to child support litigation, Divergent is Wisconsin's top choice for keeping the children first. 

Divergent Family Law is able to review each case and set a fixed fee rate for the cost of your divorce. See also: How much does a divorce cost in Wisconsin?

Use our child support calculator to get an estimate of how much your monthly child support payments could be. 


Contact Divergent to start your free initial consultation with experienced child custody lawyers in Milwaukee, Glendale, Brookfield, Madison, & Appleton

References: Custody to Party: Joint or Sole. Wisconsin State Legislature: 767.41(2) (a) (2022). |

Child Custody FAQ

How much does child custody mediation cost?

For couples that wish to settle their child custody issues outside the courtroom, mediation is the easiest & most cost effective option. The cost for divorce mediation in Wisconsin ranges from $800 to $3,500. Price is determined by the conditions of the parties divorce such as, shared debts, property, and children.

What is the difference between shared and sole child custody?

Shared custody or "joint custody" means that both parties share (50/50) legal custody, and unless specified by a judge, neither parties rights are superior. Sole custody means one parent has custody. Sole custody is not often granted unless both parties agree that custody should be given to one parent. Hire Divergent Family Law to fight for your parental rights.

How do I get full custody of my child?

If the other parent is unable to preform their parental duties, unwilling to take part in raising the child, or both parents are unable to come to an agreement on decision making required to co parent, then you may be able to get full custody. Hire the aggressive lawyers at Divergent to fight for your child custody rights.

How do I get joint custody?

File with the court, serve the other party with custody papers, and attend custody hearings. When both parties work out the parenting agreement before their court date, it's better for everyone involved. Try Divergent's mediation services for a cost-effective, stress-reduced option.

What is child support?

Child support is when a parent is obligated to designate financial support to their children. The guidelines Wisconsin uses to set up child support payment is called the percentage of income standard. This considers the income of the parent, amount of time the child spends with each parent, and if the parent is supporting other children.

How does child support work in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, child support payments are based on the income of the paying parent. Unique factors in your situation could increase the amount you have to pay including number of children, both parents income, placement schedules, etc. Hire our family lawyers to fight for your parental rights.

How is child support calculated in Wisconsin?

Child support is calculated based on the income of the paying parent and the number of children you have.

What determines who pays child support?

Which parent pays child support is determined on the placement of the child. If one parent has sole custody of the child, the other parent will need to pay child support. Check out Divergent's child custody calculator for an estimate on your monthly child support payments.

How much is child support in Wisconsin?

The cost of child support in Wisconsin depends on several factors specific to each custody case. If you have several children or have less than 25% of visitation rights, you may have to pay a higher amount in support.

Do child support payments automatically stop?

Child support payments automatically stop when children turn 18. The only exception for this is if the child is still in school, then payments will stop at 19.

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