Easy Ways to Change the Custody of Parents in Wisconsin

By Cindy Chung

If parents end their relationship, they must often continue to interact as the co-parents of their children. Although parents might not always get along or may disagree with their current custody arrangement, they can more easily change their custody arrangement by coming to an agreement on their own and avoiding court intervention. If parents have a contested custody battle in a Wisconsin circuit court, the custody process may become more difficult and time-consuming.

Understand Wisconsin Custody Laws

Before requesting a court-ordered modification to change a custody arrangement, each parent should understand the custody terms in the current order for custody. In Wisconsin, parents can obtain a court order for custody as part of a divorce case or in a paternity action. A court order usually establishes each parent's right to legal custody, which determines who can make major decisions in the child's life. The court order also explains each parent's role in the child's physical placement, which establishes a schedule for each parent to spend time with the child. A mother or father who is well informed about the current terms may be able to participate more easily in negotiations to change the custody order.

Resolve Custody Issues by Agreement

If either parent would like to modify an existing order for custody and the other parent agrees, the parents can avoid a contested trial in a Wisconsin circuit court. Rather than ask a judge to determine a custody modification, parents can jointly complete, sign and file a "Stipulation and Order to Change" form with the circuit court that issued their current order. The parents can use the form to explain a new arrangement for legal custody, physical placement or both; the circuit court must approve their agreement unless the judge believes the terms do not serve the child's best interests. However, each parent should understand the custody rights given by Wisconsin law before signing any agreements with the other parent.

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Participate in Mediation Services

If parents try to negotiate a change in custody but cannot reach an agreement, they might participate in mediation services through a Wisconsin circuit court. Mediation may allow the parents to resolve their differences with the help of a neutral third party. If only one parent believes mediation would help, that parent may request mediation by filing a Request for Court Ordered Mediation form with the local circuit court. In addition, a judge can order the parties to attend mediation in advance of a trial. If parents agree to a custody modification during mediation, they can put the terms in writing and ask the court to approve the new arrangement. Although mediation generally requires a small fee, some parents might prefer to pay for mediation services rather than hire attorneys for a contested trial.

Cooperate with the Guardian ad Litem

If parents cannot reach an agreement to modify custody on their own or through mediation, the Wisconsin circuit court typically schedules a contested hearing in court for the case. When parents have a contested custody issue, the court may choose to appoint a guardian ad litem for the child involved; the guardian ad litem is an attorney who only represents the child's interests. The guardian ad litem may investigate the case, interview the involved parties and gather evidence. Parents who cooperate with the guardian ad litem's investigation may be able to make a more favorable impression before the guardian ad litem makes a recommendation to the court regarding custody modification. If parents would like to avoid a contested proceeding, they can decide at any time during the guardian ad litem's investigation to reach an agreement on their own, for approval by the court and guardian ad litem.

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Child Custody Alternatives

When parents divorce, the court usually must issue an order dividing custody and crafting a visitation schedule that is in the best interests of the divorcing couple's children. While only courts can issue these orders, parents can create their own custody and visitation agreements, through mediation or by themselves, and ask for court approval. If parents cannot agree, the court creates a custody and visitation structure based on state guidelines and the facts of the case.

How to Reverse a Sole Custody Order in Missouri

Provided the existence of certain conditions, a parent can be successful in reversing a sole custody order in the state of Missouri. An important first step in the process is understanding the difference between legal and physical custody, and that modifications of existing arrangements require a showing of new facts coming to light after the original order. Notice must be provided to the other parent, and if the parties cannot agree on a parenting plan, the judge will rule in favor of the modification if it is in the best interest of the child.

How to Fight for Child Custody in Wisconsin

While most states use the "best interests of the child" standard in making custody determinations, Wisconsin has an additional requirement governing custody decisions. Judges in the state are required to assume that joint legal custody, which grants equal decision-making power to each parent, is in the best interests of the child until proven otherwise. Thus, parents in Wisconsin are less likely to find themselves fighting for visitation because visitation is always part of joint legal custody. However, physical custody – whom the child lives with – is still governed solely by the best interests standard. Parents seeking custody of their children must prove that the arrangement they desire is in their children's best interests.

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