Legal Information: Wisconsin

Custody

Updated: 
October 5, 2021

Can I relocate with my children? What steps do I need to take?

If you and the other parent live within 100 miles of each other, and both parents are granted periods of physical placement with the child, either parent who wants to move with the child 100 miles or more from the other parent must file a motion with the court seeking permission for the child’s relocation and must get a court order before relocating.1 The motion must include the following information:

  1. a relocation plan, which includes:
    • the date of the proposed relocation;
    • the municipality and state of the proposed new residence;
    • the reason for the relocation;
    • if applicable, a proposed new placement schedule, including placement during the school year, summers, and holidays; and
    • a proposal for how the parents will split the responsibility for transporting (bringing) the child back and forth and the costs of the transportation under any proposed new placement schedule;
  2. if applicable, a request for a change in legal custody;
  3. notice to the other parent that explains his/her right to object to the relocation by filing and serving (at least five days before the hearing) an objection to the relocation and any alternate proposal, including a modification of physical placement or legal custody; and
  4. the actual blank “Objection to Relocation” form that the other parent would file if s/he objects to the relocation.2

If you and the other parent already live more than 100 miles apart from each other and then you want to relocate, you do not have to file in court the motion explained above. Instead, you must serve written notice of your intention to relocate on the other parent at least 60 days before relocation. The written notice must include the date on which you plan to relocate and your new address.3

    Note: Even if you do not plan to officially relocate with your child but you plan to take your child away from his/her home for more than 14 days in a row, you still need to notify any other person who has periods of physical placement with the child before taking the child.4

    1 Wis. Stat. §§ 767.41(6)(h)(3); 767.481(1)(a)
    2 Wis. Stat. § 767.481(1)(b)
    3 Wis. Stat. § 767.481(1)(d)
    4 Wis. Stat. § 767.481(6)

    What happens after I file the motion to relocate? What can I expect at the initial hearing?

    If you live within 100 miles of the other parent and you plan too relocate your child to a new location more than 100 miles from the other parent, then you need to file a motion with the court to request permission to relocate.

    After the motion is filed, the court will schedule an initial hearing within 30 days. The child cannot be relocated during that time.1

    If the other parent doesn’t show up to the initial hearing or shows up and agrees to the relocation plan, the judge will allow the relocation if s/he believes it is in the best interest of the child.2

    If the other parent objects to the relocation plan, the judge will:

    • refer the parents to mediation (unless attending mediation would cause undue hardship or endanger the health or safety of a party);
    • appoint a guardian ad litem for the child; and
    • schedule another hearing date within 60 days, at which time the judge will consider various factors and decide whether to allow the relocation. Note: The judge could temporarily allow the relocation during those 60 days if relocation is in the child’s “immediate best interest.”3

    ​1 Wis. Stat. § 767.481(2)(a)
    2 Wis. Stat. § 767.481(2)(b)
    ​3 Wis. Stat. § 767.481(3)(a)

    What factors will a judge consider at the final hearing when deciding if I can relocate with my children?

    If the parents cannot agree on a proposed relocation plan, the judge will decide whether or not to allow the relocation at a final hearing. The final hearing generally takes place within 60 days of the initial hearing (and within 90 days of when the petition to relocate was first filed).1

    If the proposed relocation only minimally changes or affects the current placement schedule or does not affect or change the current placement schedule, the judge will:

    • approve the proposed relocation;
    • set a new placement schedule if appropriate; and
    • decide how the parents will split the costs of and responsibility for transportation of the child between the parents under the new placement schedule.2

    If the proposed relocation more than minimally changes or affects the current placement schedule, the judge will make a decision after doing the following:

    • considering the factors explained in How will a judge make a decision about custody?;
    • leaning towards approving the relocation plan if the objecting parent has not been using his/her court-ordered physical placement in a significant way; and
    • leaning towards approving the relocation plan if the relocation is related to domestic abuse, abuse of the child, a pattern or serious incident of interspousal battery, or a pattern or serious incident of domestic abuse.3

    1 See Wis. Stat. § 767.481(2)(a), (2)(c)(4)
    2 Wis. Stat. § 767.481(4)(a)
    3 Wis. Stat. § 767.481(4)(b)

    If I want to take my child with me for a few weeks but I do not plan to relocate, what do I have to do?

    If you have legal custody or your child and periods of physical placement with him/her, the law has a notification requirement in place that you must follow if you plan to take the child from your home for 14 consecutive days or more. Therefore even if you do not plan to officially “relocate” with your child, if you plan to take your child away from his/her home for more than 14 days in a row, you need to notify any other person who has periods of physical placement with the child before taking the child.The exception to this rule is if the court order already allows you to take your child away from his/her home for this specific period of time.1

    Note: Generally, when giving any sort of notice, it is best to do so in writing and to keep proof that it was sent. For example, mailing a letter to the other parent, keeping a copy of the letter, and sending it “certified mail, return receipt requested” is one way to prove that the notice was sent and when it was received by the other parent.

    1 Wis. Stat. § 767.481(6)

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