Can I get a Contingent Placement Order?
When parents divorce, orders will be put into place defining how they will share decision-making and time with their kids. In the past, "contingent" placement orders, that is an order that depends on future events taking place, were considered unenforceable. However, in 2021, the Wisconsin legislature made a change that allows for some contingencies in these orders. Therefore, if you are involved in a child custody and placement matter, you will want to know: Can I get a contingent placement order?
Wisconsin Child Custody and Placement Orders
Generally, Wisconsin courts cannot modify a legal custody or placement order that would substantially alter the time a parent can spend time with their child during the first two years after that order is established unless it can be shown that modification is necessary because “the current custodial conditions are physically or emotionally harmful to the best interest of the child.”
After two years, a court can modify a legal custody or placement order in a way that would substantially alter the time a parent may spend with their child if:
- 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.
In the past, child custody and placement order terms/changes that were contingent on future events were not considered enforceable. However, in 2021, the Wisconsin legislature passed Senate Bill 116 (2021 Wisconsin Act 20), changing this limitation.
- Wisconsin Act 20
In 2021, 2021 Wisconsin Act 20 became law. Under the new law, the court may “approve a stipulation for legal custody and physical placement that includes modifications to legal custody or physical placement based upon the occurrence of a specified future event that is reasonably certain to occur within 2 years of the date of the stipulation.” "Future event" is defined as "a life event of a party or of the child or a change in the developmental or educational needs of the child.”
The law provides that the court will incorporate the stipulation terms into a revised custody or placement order unless it finds that the proposed modification is not in the child’s best interest.
Stipulations Based on Future Events
There are a variety of circumstances in which parties may want to agree to modify their custody and placement orders based on contingent future events. For instance, when parents of an infant child divorce, they may agree that the child needs primary placement with one parent until they reach a certain age. Parents of a young child may also want to stipulate to contingent custody and placement terms based on when a child begins kindergarten. There may also be circumstances when parents may agree to a placement order change based on when their child completes the school year.
Limitations on Future Event Stipulations
The new law provides that the court cannot "incorporate the terms of a stipulation that is based on an anticipated behavior modification of a party," including for a party completing:
- an anger management course or therapy,
- a batterer intervention program,
- drug or alcohol treatment or therapy, or
- an incarceration term, extended supervision, parole, or probation for a violation of several criminal offenses are expressly prohibited by the statute.
Stipulations May or May Not be Approved
For parents, the change in the law adds some flexibility to create custody and placement orders that consider their family circumstances. However, this does not guarantee that a court will approve a contingent event stipulation. The best way to determine how a future contingency may work in your custody and placement order is by working with an experienced child custody attorney. Your Wisconsin child custody lawyer can help you develop custody and placement terms that work for you and your family’s needs.
Contact a Wisconsin Child Custody Attorney
The Wisconsin legal custody and placement orders can be complex. Wisconsin Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law has the experience you need to assist you with your Wisconsin child custody and placement orders. She can help with contingent event stipulations and all other aspects of your case. If you have a child custody or divorce case in Metro Milwaukee, please contact us today and let us take a “first look” at your situation.