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. 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

When a couple decides to end their marriage, the legal action can take multiple routes. If they are able to come to an agreement about all of the required details, including division of assets, child custody, placement, and alimony, then they can apply for an uncontested divorce.

In many cases, property division and child custody are emotional decisions to make. Divorce mediation or a court proceeding may be the only way to reach a mutual agreement. A collaborative divorce occurs when the two parties are able to finalize a divorce through negotiation or mediation. A contested divorce occurs when the parties cannot reach an agreement, in which case the divorce case must go to trial and a judge will rule a final, indisputable hearing.


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Experienced Wisconsin family divorce attorney
Child Custody

It is important to remember that no matter what a parent wants for the outcome of a custody case, any final decision will be made with regards to the child’s best interests before any other factors are taken into consideration.

The term “custody” is often used as a general term regarding the amount of time that a child will spend with each parent or guardian, as well as the degree of legal power each parent or guardian has over decisions relating to the child’s life, such as medical treatments, religious and educational preferences, and more. However, Wisconsin separates these decisions into two areas, “custody” and “placement.” Custody refers specifically to the legal right that a parent has in decisions regarding the care and upbringing of the child. Custody can be either shared or sole, depending on the court's decision.


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Placement refers to the arrangement between parents or guardians regarding how the child’s time is shared between the two parties. The child’s welfare is the primary consideration when the judge makes the final decision. Placement can be designated as primary, shared, or split. Primary placement is granted to the parent or guardian that the child spends the most time with. Shared placement refers to each parent dividing the amount of time the child spends with them. Split placement is a third option when multiple children are involved. Each child receives his or her own specific schedule.


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Milwaukee child placement family attorney
Child Support

In order to ensure that the child support payments are fair, the judge will explore all of the relevant details, such as the income and financial stability of each parent, as well as which parent will have the majority of the financial responsibility for the children.

Child support payments may be required until the child turns 18, or there may be other circumstances that extend the payments beyond their 18th birthday depending on the child's needs. Parents can also request for their child support agreement to be reevaluated in court. To see an estimate of your monthly child support payments, use our Wisconsin child support calculator.


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Alimony is often confused for child support, and while each involves a payment going from one spouse to the other, the similarities end there. Alimony is a payment that is made from the most-financially stable spouse to the dependent spouse for a set period of time. These payments are intended to give the dependent spouse an opportunity to adjust to their life without the ability to rely on their spouse’s income.

Alimony payments are determined by the current financial circumstances of each spouse. The agreement can always be renegotiated if one of the parents goes through a major income change. In particular, if the recipient of the alimony remarries, they may lose the spousal support payments. The terms of the agreement are clearly outlined by the lawyers or judge.


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Father's Rights

In situations involving unwed parents, the father may find that they have very few legal rights over their child. In these cases, it is especially important for the unwed father to partner with a family lawyer who can help him navigate his situation.

In addition to issues strictly pertaining to legal rights over a child, father’s rights also include issues like paternity tests, contesting adoptions or custody-related decisions, visitation, or instances where the father would like to terminate their rights. No matter the problem, if you need legal help as a father, we're here to help.


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Family attorney to protect father’s rights
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