En Español
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or (TTY) 1-800-787-3224

Know the Laws: Wisconsin

UPDATED June 22, 2017

View All

WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get help from an organization in your area before proceeding with court action. To find help, please go to the WI Where to Find Help page.

After a custody order is in place

back to topWhat happens if the custody order is violated?

After a custody order is in place, both parents have to obey the order or else they face legal consequences.  If, for example, the abuser does not return the children to you after s/he takes them for a visit, you may have to file a "petition to enforce physical placement" or an "order to show cause and affidavit for finding of contempt."   The court can provide make-up time for the parent who lost out on his/her scheduled visitation, order the children to be returned, and order the losing party to pay the other party's attorney fees.  The court can also hold him in contempt of court for violating the court order and the abuser could be fined, sent to jail or anything else that the court finds appropriate.*

Withholding children from another parent in violation of a court order can also result in criminal charges.**

Note: If your custody order does not give specific placement times, you may want to ask the judge to change the order.  The judge could add specific times that each parent has the child, which would make it easier for both parents to follow the order.

Certain situations might justify violating a court order — for example, to protect you or your children from immediate abuse or harm. However, before intentionally disobeying any court order, we recommend that you talk to an experienced family law attorney to think through your options and to understand the specific consequences you could face if you violate the order.  Go to WI Finding a Lawyer to find legal help in your area.

* Wis. Stat. § 767.471(5)(b)
** Wis. Stat. § 767.471(8)

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topHow do I change an existing order?

Either parent can request a change in a custody or placement order if there is a substantial change in circumstances and if the change to the custody order would be in the children's best interests.  If you are requesting a change of the order within two years of when the order was issued, the court will not order a change unless you can prove that the current conditions in the order are physically or emotionally harmful to the child.*

* Wis. Stat. § 767.451(1)(a)

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topCan I change the state where the case is being heard?

Possibly.  There are a lot of factors that go into whether or not a case can be transferred from one state to another after a final order is issued.  See our Changing a final custody order section for more information.  This is often complicated, and as with all custody issues, we recommend that you talk to a lawyer about this.

To find legal resources in Wisconsin, go to our WI Finding a Lawyer page.  To find legal resources in a state other than Wisconsin, choose your state from the drop-down menu here.

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topCan I move with the children?

If you have physical placement of the child and you wish to move the child out of Wisconsin, move the children more than 150 miles from your home at the time the court order was made, or remove the children from Wisconsin for more than 90 consecutive days, you must provide written notice to the other parent at least 60 days before the move.  If the other parent objects, you cannot move until the issue is resolved.*

Disobeying a custody order can have serious consequences.  Please read our section on Parental Kidnapping for more information and talk to a local attorney or domestic violence service organization to help you in this process.  See WI Finding a Lawyer and WI State and Local Programs.

* Wis. Stat. § 767.481(1)

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topIf one parent is deployed by the military, how will that affect the custody order?

If either parent is a service member in the military, and the service member has been or will be called to active duty in the U.S. armed forces, the judge can modifiy an order of physical placement based on this.  However, the order will state that immediately upon the service member's discharge or release from active duty, the order will go back to how it was before the parent left for military duty.*

* Wis. Stat. § 767.451

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topDo both parents have access to the child's educational and medical records?

Yes.  Both parents have a right to their children's school, medical, and dental records.  The only exception is when the court denies a parent any visitation or physical placement with the children – then that parent would not have the right to access the child’s records.*

* Wis. Stat. § 767.41(7)

Did you find this information helpful?

back to top