Child Custody Modification

How to Modify Child Custody or Placement Schedules in Wisconsin

Sometimes, the current custody or placement arrangement isn't working as well as it did in the past. Living locations change; children attend new schools. For these reasons, Wisconsin divorce law provides circumstances for when you can modify placement schedules.

If mutual agreement cannot be reached, the following provisions are available to modify legal custody and placement orders:

Within 2 years of the final judgment

A court can only modify custody and placement final orders within 2 years of the final judgment if:

2 years after the final judgment

A court can modify final orders after 2 years of the final judgment if:

If the court deems the evidence to sufficiently prove the current custody or placement orders are not in the best interest of the child, the court will issue one or both of the following:

The opposing party can rebut the modification motion by providing counterevidence of the current legal custody and/or placement schedule being in the best interest of the child.

Commonly, an inexperienced attorney will forget that a substantial change in circumstances is the initial hurdle that must be proven in order to request a change in placement. The party must indicate what they want changed in detail and then prove why the change would be in the best interest of the children. 



Once a motion is filed, the court will have an initial appearance with the parties. At this hearing, the court can provide temporary orders which will be in place while the motion is pending. Commonly, the parties will be ordered to attend mediation. Mediation is a confidential problem-solving process where a neutral third party mediator assists individuals in clearly defining the specific issues at hand and reaching an agreement. Participation is mandatory if it is ordered by the judge. Once an order is signed by the judge or commissioner, it will be mailed out to the parties along with further instructions. If an agreement cannot be reached through mediation, the parties will go back to court for additional hearings.

Guardian ad Litem

If the parties are at odds with respect to the child's best interest, the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem to represent the best interests of the child. The Guardian ad Litem will investigate and ultimately make a recommendation to the court. The Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is an advocate for the best interests of a minor child in regard to paternity, legal custody, physical placement, and child support. A Guardian ad Litem is a licensed Wisconsin attorney who undergoes special training by the court. A Guardian ad Litem does not “work for” either party nor the children.

The all-inclusive family law firm in Wisconsin

Our experienced Wisconsin divorce lawyers can assist you at any point in the divorce process. We work with clients at the beginning of the process to the end of the process with appeals and modifications of final orders. You are not alone. We pledge to fight for you and your child's best interests by all means necessary.

Divergent Family Law can help you through the entire Wisconsin divorce process including:

If you are going through a modification of custody or placement motion, contact Divergent Family Law offices today for a free consultation about your situation.

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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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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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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