Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Protecting Children, Strengthening Families, Building Communities




Custody and Placement


What do these terms mean?

  • Custody - The legal right to take care of and make major decisions concerning a child
    • Sole Custody - One parent has custody
    • Joint Custody - Both parents have custody
  • Placement - Period of time a child spends in the care of a parent
    • Primary Placement - Where the child lives most of the time
    • Shared-Placement - The child lives with each parent at least 25% of the time.
    • Split-Placement - A family with two or more children, in which, one parent has primary placement of one or more children, and the other parent has primary placement of the other child(ren)

Matters of legal custody and placement are separate from the child support order, which is the financial support of children.

Questions Parents Ask About Custody and Placement

The other parent is not following our court ordered custody agreement. Can I stop paying support?

No. Wisconsin family law draws a very definite line between the issues of placement and child support. This is to prevent children from being punished due to disagreements between their parents. No parent may stop paying court-ordered support because the other parent denies placement arrangements. If you are being denied your placement rights, contact your local family court commissioner. The court might refer parents who disagree on custody and placement issues to the family court counseling service for mediation.

Click here for court forms and resources.

When my children are with the other parent, they are neglected. What can I do?

If you are concerned about safety issues or the environment at the other parent's home, you should contact your local department of human services. These agencies are responsible for investigating suspected child abuse or neglect cases reported to them.

I was paying child support but now my children live with me. How do I end the support order?

Under Wisconsin law, a court may grant credit to a paying parent against support due if that parent provides evidence that the child(ren) lived with them for more than 60 days beyond the court ordered period of placement.

It is up to the court to change the legal custody arrangement, and the court will review the order for child support at the same hearing. Learn more about modifying a court order here.