Custody and Placement

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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.

Questions Parents ask when your Child is Placed Outside the Home

Who needs to pay child support for a child placed outside the home?

Both parents of a child placed outside the home may be required to pay child support. Out-of-home placements include foster homes, Kinship Care, group homes, child caring institutions, and juvenile correctional facilities.

Federal and State laws require parents to pay child support even if the out-of-home placement is not their choice. Parents may have to pay child support for their child's care whether the parents live together or not. Parents may owe child support back to the time the child was first placed outside the home. Parents are not required to pay child support for their child in an out-of-home placement if they would suffer substantial hardship because of child support payments. (For example: they would have to move from their home or file bankruptcy.) Step parents do not have to pay child support for a stepchild.

Social Service agencies and juvenile courts work with the local child support agencies to provide all needed child support services for cases of a child placed outside the home.

How much child support do parents pay?

Courts use the guidelines in the Child Support Percentage of Income Standard to decide the amount of child support. Parents may ask the court to consider a smaller amount if they are supporting another child.

How long will parents owe child support for their child in an out-of-home placement?

For a child in an out-of-home placement, parents will owe child support until:
  • The local department of social services asks that child support services be stopped, and no past-due child support is owed
  • The out-of-home placement has ended, the child returns to the parents' home, and there is no past-due child support owed
Child support orders that were in place before the child was placed outside the home will continue.


For more information regarding your child's out-of-home placement, contact your local county department of social services