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Wisconsin Family Law Articles
Planning for Divorce and Custody when Your Ex has Poor Parenting Skills

Planning for Divorce and Custody when Your Ex has Poor Parenting Skills

One of the biggest challenges in a divorce with children is how to decide and handle child custody. Even after the divorce has been long over, problems with sharing time and making decisions over issues such as your kids’ medical care, education, and extra expenses will often come up. Disagreements over these matters can become quarrelsome even when the divorce is relatively amicable. When you are going into divorce knowing that your soon-to-be ex has poor parenting skills, it is vital to be prepared.

Identify the Problems

It is crucial to identify your ex's “bad” parenting skills before making decisions during divorce. If you think your ex is not engaged enough with your kids, that is one thing. It's quite another if he or she makes choices which endanger your child. Defining the parenting issues can help you figure out what to ask for during divorce. For example, if your ex has terrible judgment when it comes to child-appropriate activities, you may want to include a provision that he or she cannot take the kids to R-rated movies or concert events after eight o’clock on a school night. If you are concerned about his or her drinking, you could require than the agreement prohibit alcohol use before and during visits.

Be Ready for Communication Problems

If you expect your ex to have problems with effective communication, having rules in place from the outset may help you avoid conflicts. Wisconsin law favors parents having equal authority to make decisions (joint custody). This can be a real problem when parents can't or won’t talk about substantial issues. If you think you and your ex will be sharing the power to make choices for your kids, consider adding agreements about how you will communicate, how long you have to respond to each other, and who can break the tie if you disagree. For example, if your ex does not return calls, texts, or emails, developing a precise term can help you act when there is no reply.

Asking for Sole or Full Custody

Sometimes concerns about a parent go beyond differences of opinion and have more to do with availability or safety concerns. If a parent is away frequently and not in a position to assess the appropriateness of their children's school or medical care, it may be sensible for the more involved parent to have sole legal custody. This means the parent will have all decision-making authority. If living with one parent most of the time is better for a child, that parent may need to have sole physical placement. There can also be situations when a parent is out of the picture or presents a threat to their child such as being violent or having an untreated addiction. The other parent may need to ask for full custody which will give them all decision-making authority and primary physical placement.

Attorney Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law understands the issues parents can face during divorce and can help you consider your situation and understand your options. Contact us today for your free consultation to take a “first look” at your circumstances and assess your needs.