In the past, the courts in Wisconsin have found that orders based upon contingent events – meaning future events which have not yet occurred – were unenforceable as a matter of public policy. However, under the newly passed 2021 Wisconsin Act 20, the courts are now allowed to enter, and enforce, placement orders to change based on a contingent, or future, event. The law states that parties can modify a current placement order by stipulation based on the occurrence of a specified future event that is reasonably certain to occur within two years of entering into the agreement. Previously, placement could not change in an agreement based upon a future event.
For instance, both parties can be reasonably certain that a four-year-old child will enter kindergarten within two years of coming to a placement agreement. The parties can now agree that their placement schedule will change when that event occurs. Parties can stipulate to something like one party having primary placement until the child enters kindergarten.
Note that the act only applies to contingent events and not behaviors. Specifically, the act states that parties can’t stipulate to contingent behaviors like a parent entering an anger management course, receiving drug or alcohol treatment or therapy, or incarceration. This means that the parties can’t assume that one parent is going to change their behavior and stipulate to changing their placement order based on successful change.
What does this mean for you? The Act allows parents and the court to address the foreseeable benchmarks in a child’s life in their stipulation. In turn, this may reduce litigation and may save parents both time and money. Less litigation may also mean less stress on a child. However, be wary that this law may be a narrow exception to the general rule against a contingent agreement. Ultimately, the contingency law permits parties to make great strides in stipulating to anticipated changes in their placement orders.
Do you have any questions about contingent custody and placement? Contact Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC at (414) 258-1644 for a free consultation.