Wisconsin law encourages parents to work out custody arrangements themselves without bringing the issue to court. If they cannot come to an agreement, courts in Wisconsin make custody decisions based on what is in the "best interest" of the child. 

What Is a Parenting Plan or Placement Agreement?

Under Wisconsin law, divorcing parents must give the court a proposed parenting plan before their divorce will be approved. A parenting plan or a placement agreement is a detailed, written agreement that sets out how they will share legal and physical custody of their children. If parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, they may have to participate in mediation (a dispute resolution process) before the court gets involved.

What Does the Court Consider in Assigning Custody?

If the parents cannot agree on custody, the court will award custody based on the child’s best interests. Wisconsin courts balance a series of factors when determining the best interest of a child.  These factors include:

  • The parent’s ability to actively parent the child,
  • The parent’s ability to provide food, shelter, education, and health care,
  • The emotional bond with the child,
  • The emotional and developmental needs of the child,
  • The physical and mental health of the parent,
  • The character of other individuals living with the parent,
  • The history of contact between the parents and the child,
  • The importance of sibling and other familial relationships,
  • How close the parents live to each other,
  • Evidence of child abuse or spousal abuse, and
  • The child’s reasonable preference (if at least 12 years old).

A parent’s gender is not considered as a factor. Sometimes, a guardian ad litem will be assigned to advocate for the child in a custody dispute.

What Happens When the Court Has Made a Decision?

Once the parenting plan and divorce order are signed, they are filed with the court clerk. Both parents are then bound by the approved parenting plan and the court must approve any modification of the plan.  

Should I Contact a Wisconsin Lawyer Regarding my Custody Issues?

Child custody disputes can be emotionally charged and require a detailed understanding of the law. If you have concerns about custody and parenting time, it is important that you speak with an experienced family law lawyer. A lawyer will help advocate for you and your child and work to secure the best possible parenting arrangement for your family.