Finalizing your Waukesha custody and placement order can be a long and trying process. Even when parties agree on how they will share decision-making and time with their kids, it can still be complicated. Once your orders are complete, it can be a relief to have everything decided. However, as time passes, you may need to change some of your terms. In Wisconsin, when parents want to formally change their custody or placement provisions, they will have to agree to or meet certain conditions. Raising the question: When can a placement order be revised?
After your child custody and placement orders are in place, your, your ex’s or your kids’ circumstances and needs may change. However, the law restricts how soon and under what conditions these types of orders can be modified.
Modification Before 2 Years
Outside of emergency circumstances, a Wisconsin family court may not substantially change a custody or placement order that significantly alters the time a parent would have with their child 2 years after the final judgment.
A parent seeking modification before 2 years has to show “substantial evidence that the modification is necessary because the current custodial conditions are physically or emotionally harmful to the best interest of the child…”
This type of modification may be necessary when a parent is violent, abusing drugs or alcohol, or endangering their child.
Modification After 2 Years
A Wisconsin family court can consider substantially modifying custody or placement after 2 years. However, just because the two-year period has passed, this does not necessarily mean that the court will automatically agree to make changes to an existing order. The court will need a good reason to disturb the provisions and, in effect, the child’s circumstances.
To modify legal custody or physical placement order that would substantially alter the time a parent may spend with their child, a Wisconsin family court would have to find that:
- There has been a substantial change of circumstances since the entry of the last order affecting legal custody or the last order substantially affecting physical placement, and
- The modification is in the best interest of the child.
Under the law, there is a rebuttable presumption that it’s in the child’s best interest to:
- Continue the current allocation of decision-making under a legal custody order, and
- Continue the child’s physical placement with the parent with whom the child resides for a greater period of time.
What is a Substantial Change of Circumstances?
Not every change will be considered enough to justify modifying custody or placement orders. However, there can be situations that may make it necessary for the parties to alter how they share decision-making or time.
Wisconsin law does not provide a specific list of “substantial change” conditions, and whether something constitutes enough of a difference will often depend heavily on the facts and the court. Therefore, before asking for a modification, you should consult with an experienced Wisconsin family law attorney to discuss your case.
Here are some of the reasons a Wisconsin family court may consider to be a “substantial change” in circumstances justifying custody or placement modification:
- A parent is moving a significant distance away from their current residence,
- The death of a parent
- A parent has placed the child at risk of physical or emotional injury
- The child’s needs have significantly changed
- There has been abuse or neglect of another child who lives with either parent.
- A parent has repeatedly and unreasonably failed to exercise periods of physical placement
The law provides that, in and of itself, a party’s change in economic circumstances or marital status is not sufficient to meet the standards for modification.
Changing a placement or custody order can be complicated and usually requires considerable evidence and support. Further, not every change in a parent’s or child’s life will be sufficient to justify a modification. The best way to assess your Waukesha child custody or placement modification case is by consulting with an experienced Wisconsin family law attorney. You and your lawyer can review your concerns and discuss your options.
Wisconsin Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is an attorney and Mediator with the experience you need to help you with your Wisconsin child custody or placement modification case. She understands the importance of having orders that support your family and meet their needs. If you have a modification case in Metro Milwaukee, Waukesha, or Brookfield, please contact us today and let us take a “first look” at your situation.