When you are getting a divorce, arriving at an agreement on the legal custody and physical placement of your children can be a challenging process as you try to prioritize your children’s best interests while balancing the needs of both parents. It is not uncommon for this process to continue even after the issuance of your child custody order, as the needs of everyone involved may change in the years following your divorce. If you find that the original order is no longer feasible or desirable, it may be time to pursue a modification.
When Can Custody and/or Placement Be Legally Modified?
In most cases, a Wisconsin child custody/placement order cannot be modified for the first two years after it is issued. However, you may be able to make the case for an early modification if you can demonstrate that circumstances have changed such that the current order is dangerous or harmful to your children. This could be the case if information comes to light regarding the other parent’s abusive behavior, or the behavior of a new romantic partner introduced to the children. The court may also consider a modification to physical placement within two years if it does not substantially change the time that either parent spends with the children.
After the first two years, the court will consider petitions for more substantial modifications to legal custody or physical placement, provided that they are in the children’s best interests. In making this decision, the court will consider the same factors as in an initial custody decision, including:
- The wishes of the children and the parents
- The children’s ages and needs
- The children’s adjustment to their current living situation and school
- Any potential risks that either parent may pose to the children
The court will take special care to ensure the children’s best interests are protected if the petition requests a change to the allocation of parental decision making or the primary custodial parent, or if a change would deviate significantly from an initial order that awarded substantially equal physical placement to each parent.
It is important to note that a parent’s remarriage or change in financial situation is generally not sufficient reason on its own for a modification, unless you can demonstrate that it significantly affects your children’s best interests. However, the relocation of a parent or a significant change to the schedule of a parent or child could be a sufficient reason to adjust physical placement. The court will usually also consider a modification if both parents are in agreement.
Contact a Milwaukee Child Custody Lawyer
At Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP, we are committed to protecting the interests of you and your children both during and after the divorce process, and we can guide you through the process of petitioning for a modification that better meets your children’s needs. Contact a Waukesha County family law attorney today at 414-271-1440 to request a free consultation.