Can my Child Decide Who to Live With in Wisconsin?

Many parents want to know if their child can decide who they want to live with in a divorce or in a placement dispute.  Or, they ask at what age a child can decide who they want to live with.  In Wisconsin, the answer to that question is that children can never make the decision as to who they want to live with, at any age.

There are many reasons for this.  Primarily, however, the courts have determined that children are not emotionally mature enough to make such a momentous decision.  Further, parents should not be placing their children in the middle and forcing them to choose between two parents who they love.

Wisconsin statutes do provide that the judge must consider the wishes of the child when making a determination on placement.  However, that does not mean that children get to decide or make that decision.  Ultimately, it is up to the parents or the courts to make a placement decision.

The older the child gets, the more weight their wishes are given.  This is especially true for a child who is mature and/or has valid or legitimate reasons for feeling the way that they do.  However, parents often mistake strong feelings for maturity.  This is not the case.  I have had cases where the court does not listen to very immature teenagers (age 17) who want to live with one parent or the other for invalid reasons (a parent is too strict or a parent is trying to influence them).  I have also had cases where the court does listen to a mature younger child (age 12) who has very valid reasons for wanting to live with one parent over the other (abuse, alcohol, neglect, etc).

More importantly, if a parent is trying to influence their child too much or drag their child into a divorce or placement dispute, this will be construed negatively against them.  Parents want to be very careful about this or it could be used against them in a placement dispute.  Children, especially teens, often have strong feelings about a lot of things but that changes frequently.  Despite what they may say, however, they do not want to be placed in a position of having to choose between their parents.  If there are legitimate concerns about the other parent, such as neglect or abuse, then this should be pursued.  However, if the sole reason to change placement is simply because that is what the child allegedly wants, this is most likely not going to succeed in Wisconsin.

Sometimes, there is a situation where a child simply will not go with the other parent for placement.  The courts usually feel strongly that you are the parent and your children must listen to you and follow a court order.  After all, children do not get to decide whether to go to school, do their homework or a myriad of other tasks that they must do.  Parents must be able to control their children.  If the relationship between the child and the other parent has broken down to the point that the child will not go for placement, then counseling is in order to repair that relationship.  The reasons for this breakdown are important, of course, and the court will take those reasons into consideration.  Ultimately, however, the child does not get to decide whether to follow a court order or not.  Understandably, this often puts the placement parent in a difficult position.

If you have questions or concerns about a placement dispute, please feel free to contact us at 414-258-1644 to schedule an appointment.  We offer free initial consultations and can review the facts of your case to evaluate your placement dispute.

67 thoughts on “Can my Child Decide Who to Live With in Wisconsin?

  1. My husband has temporary placement of our 3 yr old daughter and this is the third time he is refusing to let me see or talk to her. It has been4 days now and the times before it was 2 weeks. Is this legal?

    • The answer to your question really depends on what the circumstances are and whether there is a court order. If there is an order and he is violating it, he could be found in contempt. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney who can review the facts of your situation to give you more specific advice about your options. If your case is in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee or Washington counties, you can call us at 414-258-1644 to schedule a free office consultation.

  2. I have a 12 year old and a 16 year old daughter. They are primary placed with their mother during the school year. This is due to distance. We have joint legal custody. The court placed them in the Oregon school system. My 12 yr. old wants to live with me. She has lived with this arangement for 3 years and can’t stand it. How do I change things so that she can live with me and attend the school in my area where, by the way, she used to attend? Does she have any say so at all?

    • In Wisconsin, any time there is a substantial change in circumstances, you can petition the court to modify placement. A child cannot make decisions about where they want to live but their wishes are listened to, especially if there are legitimate reasons for her feelings. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area who can go through all of the specific facts of your situation and give you an opinion on your chances for a successful modification. Good luck to you.

  3. Im curious as to your fees….
    I have sole custody and primary placement of my 15 year old son. His father has had him for a few weeks and refuses to bring him to me. The police wont enforce the order. My sons father talked him into going to a new school and living with him. I told me son he is not changing schools. My son said if i dont let him go he will never speak to me. My son text me the other day saying i need to sign custody over to his father and say i dont want to receive child support anymore. I refused. Also my sons father hasnt paid child support in 8 months which is why I believe is the reason behind him all of a sudden wanting my son full time. His father refuses to speak on the phone only through texts and then he shows my texts to my son, and shortly after my son texts me telling me to quit harrassing them. My son has also been telling me he will testify against me in court if i dont let him change schools. His father said he is enrolling him in this other school regardless of what i say. The school is in another city too. I dont know where to turn anymore. Any information you can provide would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • You should consult with an experienced family law attorney to thoroughly discuss this situation. However, I can tell you a few things. First, as custodian, you must consent to the school change. If you do not, you can contact the new school and advise them that you are sole custodian (and primary placement parent for that matter) and you do not consent to your son being enrolled in school there. They may ask you for a copy of your judgment of divorce or paternity order. The school cannot enroll him over your objection and they usually will not. This will take of this issue in the short term.

      Second, there clearly is a breakdown with your son somewhere but that doesn’t mean you should give into the immature and threatening whims of a 15 year old who may be strongly being negatively influenced by his father. It is true that children in Wisconsin are allowed to express their wishes in a custody or placement true. But, they do not get to decide where they want to live. Living with his father may not be the best place for him and he needs to realize that. I am curious as to why the police won’t enforce the order. Since that is the case, you should probably immediately file a contempt and/or enforcement order and ask for an emergency motion date so that the court can order him back. Keep in mind that will open the door for Dad to file a counter-motion for a change in custody and placement. But, that is the proper way to do this anyway. A parent cannot unilaterally change placement without consent or court order.

      The end result may not change. If your son really wants to live with his father that badly, the courts may accept this and listen to his wishes. However, there appears to be more going on here that needs to be investigated. I strongly urge you to obtain counsel. If you live in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee or Washington counties, we can offer you a free consultation. Call 414-258-1644 to schedule an appointment. If you live outside of those areas, check http://www.findlaw.com or http://www.AVVO.com for a referral for an experienced family law attorney in your area.

  4. You dont need an attorney yet. Go to: http://www.wicourts.gov/forms1/circuit/ccform.jsp?…&StatuteCite=&Category=12

    and check the (FA-604) Stipulation and Order to Amend Judgment for Support/ Maintenance/ Custody/ Placement

    fill this out and take it to the court house. It will cost $80. They will serve him and force him to appear in court. There might even be charges brought on him for failure to comply with the 1st court order. Dont let people sucker you into a lawyer at this point. You wont need one just yet.

    • I am posting this comment to illustrate the dangers of not hiring an attorney in these situations. Thank you for your comment, Alexandri, but your information is incorrect. A Stipulation is an agreement between the parties to modify the current court order or judgment. Therefore, it is not the correct form. You need to file a Notice of Motion and Motion for contempt which may be on that website as well. Also, the cost is not $80. There is no fee for filing a contempt motion. Most counties charge a fee if you file a Motion to modify court orders. For example, in Milwaukee, the fee is $50 for custody and and placement and $30 for child support. I am not aware of any county that charges as high as a fee as $80 for any motion but I could be wrong.

      Once you file a Motion for contempt, “they” will not serve him. You have to arrange for service yourself although most counties will offer service through the sheriff’s department. You must request and pay for that, however. Once he is served, he cannot be forced to come to court. However, if he fails to come, they will usually automatically find him in contempt and enter sanctions and orders.

      While you certainly can file any motion by yourself, I stand by my statements that you should retain counsel for the best possible results.

  5. I’m 16. I’ve lived with my dad half custody for years. He was abusive to me in the past (I have witnesses of this) but he denies it. I’ve known my whole life I’ve wanted to live with my mom. I want to live with her because she accepts me for who I am. I am a lesbian; my dad doesn’t know but he always bashes gays constantly. Also, I am atheist out of my own personal experiences. When I told my dad the partial truth that I was having doubts about the god he believes in, he got furious. My life is a living hell with him. He won’t let me get a job. He says I’m irresponsible despite my good grades and others commenting on how mature I am because I know how to handle myself. Yes I’m 16, but I think they should at least consider my wishes unlike they have done in the past. If they won’t my sister of 27 years will take the stand also and explain how horribly they (my current step mom and dad) treat me. I have witnesses whom are grown adults, but the court still fails to listen to me and I demand to know why.

    • I am sorry that you have had such a hard time at your dad’s. The court will definitely listen to your wishes, especially at your age and since you have such valid reasons for your feelings. Additional support and witnesses, like your sister, will also help. Your mother needs to file a motion requesting a change in placement. She definitely needs to hire an experienced divorce attorney who can assist her through the process. Good luck to you.

  6. My daughter lives in Wisconsin and she has 60% placement of her two boys. Tim is 13 and Isaac is 11. Their dad has them every other week-end , every Thursday and every other Tuesday 5-8pm
    Tim had ADHD and his dad is very very hard on him. Tim never does anything right in his eyes and he has been very hard on Tim since his birth. Now he is getting angry with Isaac and getting in their faces and screams and yells. He has threaten to take Tim’s bed and everything away from him if he does not do every thing he tells him. What do the boys need to do to get out of this situation?
    They are afraid of him and also afraid to tell any one except their mom about what he does to them.

    Thank you

    • I would suggest that your daughter consult with an experienced family law attorney to go over all of the facts to determine whether anything can be done about this situation. She should also take the children for counseling, if they already are not, to assist them in dealing with this situation. That may also help down the road with a custody or placement action.

  7. My child was 3 when my divorce was final. Now he is 12 and involved in sports that his father disagrees with him being a part of and chooses not to take him to or pick him up from. Therefore does not see my son every other weekend as established in our custody agreement. Would the court ever recommend that my child not be signed up for extra-curricular activities that conflict with the every other weekend custody arrangement? My child deserves to be involved in these activities. Is this something I should have to revisit court over?

    • It depends. Some kids are definitely “over-scheduled” and the other parent has the right to dictate how his time is spent with his child. On the other hand, most people agree that activities are good for children, especially if the child wants to participate. I suggest you consult with an experienced divorce attorney to go through the facts of your case to determine if you have any options here. Good luck.

  8. My son will be 10 this July and has been expressing not wanting to continue visitations with his father (every other weekend), as he doesn’t feel safe when he’s there (father lives with paternal grandmother). My son was abused by both his father (physically, mentally, emotionally) & paternal grandmother (mentally, emotionally) in the past. He (my son) is ADHD, and now suffers from PTSD & anxiety as a result of this.

    When I went to court for that matter 3 years ago, sole custody was denied to me, even with mental health records & medical documentation. Do I have the right to withhold visits for safety reasons? Am I able to pursue sole custody for his well being? Any counseling he has gone through has been counterproductive, given the magnitude of denial, redirect, and control his father is trying to regain & maintain.

    Please help!

    • You need to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can go through all of your facts and give you legal advice. I cannot do that through this site. Good luck to you.

  9. I have a 21 year old son and a 15 year old daughter and joint custody of both with their father. When my son turned 18 he immediately moved in with me full time. My daughter has been wanting to move in with me because of the living conditions at her dad’s as well as his verbal mistreatment (same reason my son moved out). Even though there is no physical abuse there is alot of verbal/mental abuse, and that has been hard for me to prove in court. I put her in counseling this last year, and recently she left his house and came to mine and does not want to go back. I am not forcing her to return as I know how verbally abusive he is and do not want to put her into that environment. He says he is going to call the police and get an attorney to get my daughter back. I am afraid if they force her to go back, she will run away due to being scared to be there with him. I will go to court and fight for full custody but what about the interim time?

    • I can only tell you that you are required to follow the court order. However, if a child simply refuses to go and there are good reasons for that, the court will consider that in future litigation. Your best option is to immediately consult with an attorney who can go through all of the facts of your case and give you advice based on that. I cannot do so through this website/forum. Good luck to you.

  10. I am 15 and I live with my mother,
    I was just wondering If it would be legal to give my dad placement of me, He has MS and I want to be able to see him as much as possible before anything happens, and I don’t like living with my mother, she’s rude to me, and all she does it badmouth my father. I don’t want to be caught between this, I don’t want to hurt anyone, But I would like to live with my father.

    • Your father would need to file a motion in family court for a change in placement. While you do not necessarily get to make this decision, at your age, your wishes are given a lot of weight especially if there are valid reasons. Encourage your father to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney to determine his best course of action.

  11. I have a granddaughter who is scared to death of her new stepmother and wants to not go with her. My daughter believes from something she read or was told that you cannot force a child to go with someone they don’t want to in Wisconsin. Is this true?

    The stepmother picks her up at visitation, not dad. She runs right past her to my husband, grandpa, who is at school picking up her brother/our grandson. On other occasions when just the stepmother is present, she hangs in the school til all children are gone not wanting to come out to her. When my husband or I are present, and she runs to us, we have no choice but to send her over to the woman who she will not even look at and send her with her. A custody suit has been ongoing and hearings are scheduled for a few months down the line.

    My only question here is, if the child doesn’t want to go, is what my daughter believes true? That you can’t force a child to go with someone they don’t want to in Wisconsin? And if there is a basis to this, can you tell me where to find it? A statute maybe?

    Thank you.

    • You don’t say how old your granddaughter is although she sounds younger. However, regardless of age, a child never gets to decide whether to go to visitation or not. A child’s wishes are considered and the older they get, the more weight those wishes are given. Obviously, for example, you cannot drag a 16 year old kicking and screaming to a visit. But, it is different for a younger child.

      More importantly in this situation, something is clearly going on. When children are this afraid of someone, there is typically a reason. From what you say, I would suspect some kind of abuse. Therefore, I would take this child to a counselor for evaluation. If the father has joint custody, he would typically need to be at least informed, if not consulted. You state that there are custody hearings already going on. If your daughter has an attorney, make sure she consults with her attorney prior to doing anything. Doing the wrong thing can jeopardize an outcome in a custody case. But it would be a rare case where the court would not approve counseling or an evaluation. If she does not have an attorney, she needs to hire one as soon as possible. I would consult with an attorney who is experienced in family law in her area and can give you some advice about what specifically to do.

  12. My parents have recently gotten a divorce and they have a 50/50 split for seeing my sisters and I, I’m 14 years old and I absolutely hate living at my dads house, can I only live at my moms house?

    • I’m afraid this is something you should talk to your mom about. She can discuss this with her attorney or with an attorney who specializes in divorce. Every case is different and it really depends on your specific situation and sometimes even the county in which you reside or the judge who presides over your parent’s divorce. Even if you can’t make that decision, you should ask your mom about getting you into some counseling so you can get help for your feelings or maybe even try to fix things at your Dad’s. You might also want to consider talking to your Dad directly about what is bothering you and whether things at his house can be fixed so you don’t feel the way you do. You might be surprised!

  13. i just found out my ex husband is sleeping with my brother’s second wife. He also slept with my brother’s first wife, which is the reason why we got divorced as well as the reason for my brother’s first divorce. Now he’s the reason for my brother’s second divorce. My ex and I have an 11 year old son. My ex hasn’t paid child support in nearly 3 years after he lost his job. He has our son every other weekend. I do not want my son around a serial adulterer (which my ex and my brother’s wife seem to be, as this isn’t the first time she’s cheated on him). I do not want my son to see that and think it’s ok to break up a family. They are not positive roll models for an impressionable preteen boy. What are my options?

    • You should seek the advice of an experienced divorce attorney who can look at all of the facts of your case and give you a better idea of your options. However, I will say this, just because you believe he is a bad or immoral person, doesn’t mean he is a bad dad. There are lots of people in the family court system who think, for example, that a wife abuser is not a bad dad and still recommend 50/50 placement. I am not saying that I agree but the standard for custody and placement disputes is what is in the best interests of the child and absent direct child abuse or child endangerment, most judges and court commissioners believe that a child is entitled to have a relationship with his father, even if dad isn’t the best person in the world. If cheaters can’t be good parents, then a great majority of the people getting divorced out there wouldn’t ever see their kids. Adultery, unfortunately, is fairly common. Further, every other weekend is a pretty minimal placement schedule nowadays. I don’t see him getting much less than that. You should talk to an attorney, however, who is familiar with your county and with your judge to give you a better idea what might happen in this situation.

  14. My husband and I have been divorced for almost 9 years. We have joint custody 75/25 with the kids being with me 75%. However, he has never had them overnight. In fact, he has only picked them up at 9:30am and then brought them back home between 12:30-1:00pm. He was to have them Friday/Saturday one week, then Saturday/Sunday the next. He has never picked them up on Fridays…ever. My youngest daughter is now 15. My ex has moved to Phoenix but still owns a home in the town near us. He has only seen her 3x in the past 3 months and has been telling her he was in Texas, then California for job training. He continually does not tell the truth on most anything which is very frustrating having to watch your kids figure out their dad is not being honest with them. They have figured it out on their own as I am careful not to say negative things about their father, however, they also need to know this is not acceptable behavior. I am pretty sure he’s been in Phoenix living with his girlfriend most of that time. He is now saying he wants our daughter for the summers. My daughter does not want to spend her summers there because it’s hot and she is at the age she wants to spend the summers with her friends. She also is a high anxiety child and I worry being away from home for 3 months will have a negative affect on her. I’m hoping we can work things out to let her decide when she wants to go. Do I have any options? It’s not that I don’t want them to spend time together but the past 9 years has shown he hasn’t had much interest in being a full-time dad. Unsure what to do?

    • Hello- The chances of be awarded an entire summer of placement under these facts is very slim. You do not have to agree to this and I wouldn’t agree. There are a number of things that concern me in this scenario including the minimal prior efforts on placement, not knowing where he is residing and with whom, etc. Ultimately, he has to file a motion if he wants to change placement and I would be surprised if he would do that since he has made such other minimal efforts in the past. I would consult with an experienced divorce attorney in you area to go through all of your facts, get advice on all of your options and discuss possible outcomes and/or resolution of your situation. Good luck.

  15. I need advice and I’m desperate to get it. My 17 year old who will be 18 in August is flat out refusing to follow my rules. And trying to move out even though I am telling him NO! He has been I to legal trouble. Smokes weed three times a day that he admired to me. Not at home tho. He is really disrespectful! Walking around saying fuck this or callinge names. Turns off his phone. Stays out at all hours of the night and won’t answer my text to come home. He won’t help around the house. I just know when he hits 18 in August he will be dropping out of school. I really need help. I’m going to get him into a drug treatment therapist but I know he won’t open up. I need help. What can I do to get a judge to order him that he must stay. And maybe even longer due to his actions. Please please please help. He tried getting his dad to take custody so that way his dad could tell him he can just be on his own. But he is not maurure enough. Advice please?!?!

    • Unfortunately, we handle divorce cases and there isn’t much a divorce judge can do with only 3 months left. You could discuss a JIPS action which is a juvenile in need of protection or services but, by the time you get that going, he will age out so that isn’t an option either. The best option is to see a therapist, either with him or alone, and get some parenting options. If you can do it with his dad, better yet. Present a united front. Lay down the law and follow through with consequences. Good luck!

  16. My daughter is 14. My ex & I have 50\50 custody based on a decree from when she was 5. We got back together after our divorce & split again 3 years later. We have worked things out OK until recently. My daughter wants to switch schools to the school where I live. Currently I commute her about 10 minutes everyday to her current school. She gets picked on a lot & she struggles being with her dad, as his girlfriend makes fun of her a lot & puts her down.I am not looking to change schedule just her school so this is her primary house. She has asked for this. Can that be done without the courts?

    • Where a child attends school is a joint custodial decision which must be made by both parents. If there is an agreement, then she can switch schools. However, if there is not an agreement, then you must file a Motion with the court and ask that you be allowed to make that decision and that she be allowed to change schools. It sounds as if you certainly would have grounds to do that. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney to determine exactly what needs to be done and what your chances of success are in your county and before your judge. Good luck.

  17. My ex husband and I have been divorced for 3 years. We have a six year old boy together. We have had multiple temporary custody orders, a GAL assignment and many issues recorded of him harassing me. I was primary and he only had partial placement. He chose to move out of the area prior to our divorce. He was recently awarded 50 50 placement this June after moving back. He is now divorcing his second wife. They were married just shy of 2 years. Is there any grounds that I can address reviewing the custody awards since it was based off his wife caring for the child. He travels alot and doesn’t have the time to care for my son often. He is looking to have his mother move back from Arizona to fill the gap of wifely / parental duties. Neither are stable or cooperative. There is documentation from a counselor of my ex that he has what she called a destructive personality.

    • Any substantial change in circumstances is grounds for reviewing a court order and this certainly sounds as if it may qualify. However, without access to all of the facts, especially since you cite a lengthy history, I cannot tell you for certain. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney in your county to review all of your facts and advise you as to a course of action and likelihood of success. You also may want to contact the prior Guardian ad Litem to determine if his or her future recommendation may change given this new development.

  18. Im 16. My parents got divorced when I was 10 and recently found out that I have influence over where I live. I have lived with my mom ever since my parent got divorced. I have a better relationship with my father than I do my mother. As my mother and I fight all the time about my placement and that I would like to live with my father.
    My father has always lived with his parents, but its how his whole side of the family is. His brother lives there too, and so do my cousins.
    I am curious if I ask my father to take custody of me, how well it would go in court.

    • Your father is going to have to seek the advice of an attorney to determine if he has grounds to file for custody and placement. Once he determines that, he will have to take action. Your wishes will carry great weight in that decision but will not be the only factor. There are a variety of things the court looks at. Good luck.

  19. I’m a 12 year old girl and in 3 months will turn 13. I want to live with my dad, my mom is just to much to handle and just straight up mean sometimes. My dad is not he listens and and respects me and I do the same for him. My mom forces me all the time to spend the night and I hate it there but I spend at least an hour over there every day. What are my chances or living with my dad?

    • This is something you should be discussing with your father. He would then have to consult with an attorney and decide if he wants to initiate a change in custody proceeding. Kids do not get to decide who they live with but their wishes are considered if there is a good basis for how they feel. Again, talk to your dad and go from there.

  20. My ex and I have 2 children for which we have 50/50 custody and placement per the court order. It also states that for tax purposes, my ex will claim the older and I will claim the younger until the older is no longer able to be claimed, at which time we alternate the younger.
    The kids have had a strained relationship with their dad and when the oldest turned 18 he chose to live with me. I provided all of his support in 2015 (he was 18 in Dec 2014 and he is a full time student), but his dad says he is still going to claim him on his taxes (just because he can)
    Since my son is 19, would I still have to go through the whole court system to change placement in order to get the tax thing changed?

    • Family court has no authority to enter any orders over adult children. This includes the allocation of a tax exemption. I have always taken the position that, as an adult, it is the child’s right to allocate his or her exemption to a parent. However, tax rules must also be followed which state that in order to claim a dependent, they must live with you for more than half of the year and/or you must provide more than half of their support. If this is not true of your ex-spouse, you can challenge his right to claim your son as a deduction with the IRS and the Wisconsin Dept. of Revenue. An accountant or tax preparer can given you better advice as to how to address this situation with the taxing authorities.

  21. Hello, my daughters and I moved to Wisconsin in 2009 from Seattle, where their father lives, with his blessings. I filed divorce from him in 2011 in Wisconsin and we have our parenting plan, giving me placement, ordered from Wisconsin as well. My girls father has refused to return my girls from their Christmas break, saying that they told him they want to live with him. My oldest is 13 and has Asperger’s syndrome and is highly susceptible to being convinced/influenced, and my youngest just turned 11. I am a loving mom, and I have a third child, their brother who is 4 from my second marriage. Sadly I was recently divorced from my second husband and am planning to go forward in love few as a single mom, so my kids won’t see me go from relationship to relationship since I seem to not have good luck being married. What are my chances of retaining my placement and getting my girls back from Seattle, as he has violated our order and will not let me speak to my daughters at all the last 3 weeks.

    • You should hire an attorney and file for an immediate emergency placement motion in Wisconsin! He is in direct violation of a court order and this is a serious matter. The court in Wisconsin will order him to immediately return the children. If he wants to change placement, he must file a motion here. He does not have the option to hold them from you. You may need to go out to Seattle with the court order to get them – they will honor/enforce that. Contact an attorney in the county in which you were divorce right away. You can also contact the police in his jurisdiction and show them the current order. They also may enforce that and force him to return the children. Good luck!

      • Thank you, I did actually just drive there Sunday hoping the Kent Police who preside in his area would enforce the order we have, and do a civil standby so I could get my girls. Sadly the officers said it was a “civil matter” and told me I had to handle it in civil court. They said that their father showed them that he is submitting a “motion to modify placement”…..and for some reason they felt his “motion”- made my order obsolete?

        Needless to say it is a very hopeless feeling to have gone there hoping the order would be upheld, just to drive home empty handed. He wouldn’t even let me or my 4yr old see them. I am a loving mom, am active in our community, their school, and am secretary or my sons Headstart policy council. I’m not neglectful in any manor, or unfit…quite the opposite, and am a homeowner to boot, so we have a stable life here in Wisconsin. I don’t know why he is doing this now, but I am so sad to see my girls being manipulated to be afraid of me….that is what the father told the police, but truly there is no reason for anyone to fear me, let alone my own children.

        Thank you for your advice to point me in the right direction….getting the retainer money is my next hurdle. But I will because fighting for them IS worth it❤️.

  22. What if the child wants to live with someone who is not family relation but has been the only mother to the child for 5+ years? The father is a big alcoholic and the child is ALWAYS with this mother figure. Can we petition the court for her to just live w me so she is not subjected to the mental abuse and a constantly gone, and drunk father? The child is 12 will be 13 in august.

    • There are many factors which can affect the answer to your question. For example, where is the mother? Is she fit? If the parents were never married, you could possibly seek custody and placement in an underlying paternity action, if there was one. If the parents were divorced, however, you would need to seek a guardianship through Children’s Court. You need to consult with an experienced family law attorney in order to obtain the best advice for your situation. Good luck.

      • The mother abandoned her when she was 3. She now lives in Montana and has for many years. So no the mother is not in the picture. Her parents were divorced but as I said, mother lives in montana.

        • Out of state and divorced parents greatly complicates the scenario for a third party seeking placement. Again, you really need to consult with an experienced family law attorney to assist you on this.

  23. My kids are 14 and 16 and they dont want to go by there dad anymore cause there is alot of yelling between my ex his wife and all the kids

    • There are a variety of factors which are considered in a change of placement motion. What you describe is certainly one of them. However, that does not mean you would be successful on that basis alone. I would encourage you to consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area. You can discuss all of the facts with the attorney and he or she can give you a better idea of what you need to do in your particular case. Good luck.

  24. My husband was awarded 100% placement of his kids, who are 14 and 15 now, they were 10 and 11 at the time. He took their mother to court because she withheld them from him for 51 days. She lost placement, and has zero decision making when it comes to education. She has visitation every Wednesday, and every other weekend. Since January, she has actually only had them 3 times. Two weekends, and one Wednesday for an hour and a half. Neither one of the boys really want to see her, all she does is mentally and verbally abuse them. Is there some sort of law or rule that they can decide not to honor her visitation? I’m not talking about legally modifying the placement or visitation. Are they old enough to just say “I don’t want to come this weekend.”? She makes the choice to not force the visitation, she doesn’t drive to our home insisting they come with her.

    • Children are never allowed to make decisions regarding custody and placement. However, their wishes must be considered and the older they get, the more weight the court gives to their wishes. This is especially true if there is a valid and compelling argument for what they want and they present it in a mature and reasoned way. If they refuse to go, you need to be prepared that she will file a Petition to Enforce Placement and you (they) will need to justify their refusal to go to the court and/or a Guardian ad Litem. There could be consequences, however, such as make-up placement time and attorneys fees. I doubt initiating an action to eliminate any placement would be wise because that will rarely happen and you are just opening the door to litigation. However, you should also consult with an attorney to obtain specific advice about this situation to see what may or may not happen in court in your county. Good luck.

  25. My daughter is 14 years old and has recently been asking me questions that I believe may be coming from her father; such as, how much money do I make, how much did our house cost, why does she have to call her stepdad Dad (that she has been calling him Dad for the last almost 9 years), doesn’t her biological father have joint custody, why do I try to buy her off (when she has always said I was cheep before) and several more questions like this…Also, I just received a motion and court date from her dad wanting full custody, child support from me, and said it was at my daughter’s request. When I talked to my daughter; she said it is because my husband and I scare her when we yell at her, she is not happy with us, that my daughter and her dad have been talking about this for a long time, her biological dad will let her have privacy and freedom…Do I have valid reason to think that her dad has been encouraging my daughter?

    • Of course but that is irrelevant right now. The damage has been done. You need to get your daughter into counseling right away. If she won’t go, then the court may have to order it. You need to hire an experienced family law attorney to assist you in the court case. Experienced attorneys know exactly how to deal with this type of situation and will know how to advise you for the best possible outcome. Good luck!

      • I am in almost the EXACT situation but he has not gone to court yet. However, my ex seems to be teaching her how to communicate with people, including himself, in ways that I cannot see or track if I look at her phone. She claims all those same things your daughter is saying and he is making choices that impact her well-being without my consent, as required by our court papers. I feel like I have lost all control but I have talked to 2 different lawyers who both say I should keep trying to keep it out of court. I get that, but he has changed her doctor and taken her to appointments without telling me about the switch or the appointment. She was diagnosed with Bipolar a few months ago and doesn’t want her to take the medication so he does not monitor it, so she is very inconsistent. We took all social media off her phone after her last manic episode because she was being impulsive, making unsafe choices and using SnapChat as her means to do so. She has not learned how to cope with her illness and is currently in therapy but he said that she has been punished long enough, has learned her lesson and gave it back to her…but then said if I do not agree, I can take her phone away when she is with me. Wouldn’t social media, in this case, constitute a decision made for her well-being without my consent??

        • Ruth – these are extremely difficult situations, especially when you have an “at risk” child. The court system is very limited in what it can do and it is not equipped to solve the types of issues that you are having with your child. Yes, it appears that he is an uncooperative joint custodial parent but I suspect there are two very different sides to this story and the best way to resolve these issues is in a therapeutic setting. Your daughter’s counselor needs to work with him to make him understand what is best for her and why. If the counselor is unable or unwilling to do that, then you need to find another counselor. However, if Dad is unwilling to do that, then it is definitely time to go back to court, if nothing else to get orders to force him to work with the counselor. I’m not sure what kind of lawyers you have talked to but if you talk with an experienced family law attorney, especially one who does a lot of child custody cases, or even acts as a Guardian ad Litem in court, they will know what to do. Yes, the goal is to keep this out of court. But, sometimes you have to go back to court to keep it out of court (and get orders forcing this back onto a therapeutic path)! Good luck to you and your daughter. If you live in Milwaukee or the surrounding areas, give us a call at 414-258-1644 to schedule a free consultation. If you do not, please look on Findlaw.com or AVVO.com to find an experienced lawyer who can help you.

  26. I started seeing my now husband 2 years ago. He lived 35 minutes away from his daughter at that time and only saw her every other weekend. She used cry and have meltdowns and ask all the time when she would get to go back to her mom. A little over a year ago we moved into a house about a mile from her mom and ever since then she has enjoyed staying with us a lot more. It feels like a family and she doesn’t have those meltdowns anymore and rarely asks for her mom when she’s with us. He completely changed his travel schedule (rarely does he travel now) for work allowing more time with her. They now do a 60/30 split (neither knew up until recently that this schedule was in the divorce papers). This has been going well and he now wants 50/50 with a child support payment more adequate to their incomes. Her mom is refusing only giving the reason that is not what is best for her and its not what the daughter wants. There is no denying that she loves her mom more than anything and that she would probably tell the GL she would like to spend a little more time at her mom’s, but her relationship with her dad has really grown a ton since I met him. Will the court favor her mother since she has been the primary care giver? Or does dad have a chance at 50/50?

    • Hello – Any time there has been a substantial change in circumstances, that can be considered grounds to modify a court order. Moving closer certainly would qualify as a substantial change. However, there are a variety of factors that are considered when the court decides an issue such as this. Further, commissioners and judges in different counties treat these types of cases differently. I would strongly recommend sitting down with an experienced family law attorney in your area to go through all of the facts in your case to determine what his likelihood of success is. Most family law attorneys offer free consultations so there would be no cost to this except some of his time. Good luck!

  27. In the State of Wisconsin is it true that child support payments do not end when a child turns 18 but instead they continue until they graduate from high school? But then for the purpose of placement the child has the right to choose to stop following the court placement order when they turn 18, even if they’re still in high school??? This doesn’t seem to make sense to me that for child support they are still considered a child after they turn 18, until they graduate from high school. But for the placement schedule they’re considered an adult immediately when they turn 18, even if they’re still in high school. Can you confirm that this is true and explain why there is the difference? Also, once one of my children does graduate from high school, what do I have to do to get the child support that I pay decreased accordingly? Do I need an Attorney for this?

    • Yes, that is all true. Child support terminates at age 18, or when the child graduates from high school, whichever comes second. And, unfortunately, a child can decide their own placement at 18, when they are legally an adult. This is just the way the law is in Wisconsin and I can’t explain it beyond that. I’m sorry. If you only have one child you are paying child support for, it will automatically terminate in June of their graduation year unless a parent can prove they did not graduate. If you are paying on more than one child, then you would need to file a motion to modify your child support based upon a substantial change in circumstances – the graduation of one of your children. Good luck.

      • Wow, thank you for your quick response. Just a couple follow-up questions: I am paying child support for more than one child – Would I need to hire an attorney to file the motion to modify the child support? Or is it easy enough for the average person to do themselves? Are the calculations to determine the appropriate adjusted amount pretty straight forward? Who does it get submitted to and how many months in advance of the graduation should I be working on this to ensure that it’s all processed and in effect immediately upon my child’s graduation? Thanks again!

        • You do not necessarily need an attorney to file a motion. However, I always recommend that you recalculate support based on the 1 child prior to requesting a change. If you are paying full child support, the reduction is not really all that much – from 25% to 17%. If your income has substantially increased, you could find that you would be paying as much, if not more, for one child. In that case, it wouldn’t be worth requesting the change as you could end up worse off under a new order. Therefore, I recommend that you at least consult with an attorney prior to filing any motion. The length of time really depends on your county and how long it takes to get into Court. In Milwaukee County, for example, their hearing dates can run 4-5 months out for a modification of child support motion. Again, an experienced family law attorney can give you that information.

  28. Need a little advice!! My son is 17 years old and will be turning 18 in just over 2 months. Over a month ago he started living here after another one of his fights with his mother who has primary placement. I have encouraged him to take time to think about his decision and to talk to his mom to see if they could resolve the issue. He has gone to his moms house twice and had at least 6 or more phone conversations and i dont know how many texts. They have resolved nothing. In fact the situation between them seems worse. He has told her repeatedly he is not coming back to live there full time. She is not having that. She is threatening to have the cops come and remove him from my residence or his work place. Which i dont think they will. What should i do? I think since the fighting is so bad and its been like this for a few years now he should just stay with me. I tried to give it time to see if they could resolve the issue or issues between them and that failed. thoughts please!

    • I am afraid that I cannot give legal advice on this forum. However, I will tell you that it is unlikely that anyone will do anything with an almost 18 year old – either the courts or the police. What I typically tell my clients to do in this situation is to contact the police in advance to explain the situation and see if they will, in fact, do anything about this. I would be surprised if they would. And, by the time anything gets through the courts, your son will be 18 and it will be too late. The courts lose jurisdiction over custody and placement when a child legally becomes an adult (18) and any court orders essentially become null and void. Good luck!

  29. Good afternoon! I’d like to run my situation past you and am interested in seeing your response. My exwife and myself have been divorced for about 11 years. I am now remarried to a remarkable woman here in Minnesota. About 8 years ago I moved to Maple Grove, Mn. My exwife moved to her hometown in Eagle River for 2 years and now resides in Menasha, Wi. with her live in boyfriend of 6 years. I drive back and forth from Maple Grove to Wausau every other weekend. And in addition, I get my 2 daughters for 8 to 9 weeks in the summer as well as spring break, winter break. I never ever miss a visitation regardless of the traveling involved. I have also never been late with my child support. I have always payed child support while having the girls in the summer as my ex and I had an agreement that she would use the extra child support for school supplies in the fall. Now this year we got into a heated argument over the fact that she wants me to pay half of the school supplies and clothing in addition to the child support I’m paying her while the girls are at my house. Up to this point, my ex and myself have gotten along great, but I refuse to pay anymore money, as I am barely making ends meet myself. Outside of the child support, all other agreements have been agreed upon by just my ex and myself with no court intervention, unfortunately this also includes visitation which the court believes is only every other weekend. And now she is threatening me about legal action about having moved here 8 years ago w/out her permission. That fact is a lie. I wouldn’t ever have moved somewhere if it was going to effect me seeing my daughters, so obviously at the time she told me to go ahead and no big deal. There are other circumstances here as well, such as driving distances, and sleeping arrangements at her house, as well as if the girls can come live by me (ages 12 & 13). But for your sake I won’t write any more as of right now. Do I have a leg to stand on here? She is threatening legal action, so I’m just wondering what you have to say???

    • This sounds like a fairly complicated situation and, as a result, I am uncomfortable with giving you any kind of detailed answer or advice. Your best bet is to consult with an experienced divorce or family law attorney in Wisconsin. However, I can say a few things. First, the divorce judgment or current order controls. This would apply to visitation as well as to whether you should pay for school supplies. Second, you did not need her permission to move nor does she get to deny your alternating weekend placement simply because it occurs in Minnesota. The summer placement may be a different issue if that was a “handshake deal” between the two of you as you cannot enforce that if it wasn’t a court order. Third, the court tends to favor the status quo so even if this would go back to court, it is very possible that the judge would enter an order reflecting what has been going on for the last 8 years, all other things being equal. Perhaps it is time to go back to court and have the judge memorialize into an order what has been happening for 8 years. There is no guarantee, however, so I would still suggest you work this out with your ex. I can guarantee you that you both will spend more in attorneys fees and court costs than the cost of some school supplies and clothing. Good luck.

We welcome your comments or questions. We will do our best to try to respond. However, please be advised that we cannot give legal advice in this forum and all communications are for general informational purposes only. Communication should not be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. This is an open forum and any information you provide may be posted and will not be held confidentially. By posting a comment or question, you are expressly giving consent for the publication of same. If you have any specific legal issues or concerns, we always recommend that you consult with an attorney in the county and state in which you reside.

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