Attorney Sarah Schuchardt
Wisconsin changed the relocation statute just over a year ago, which changed the process and what a parent must establish before getting approval to relocate with the minor child(ren) after a divorce or paternity judgment. Previously, a parent seeking to relocate only had to provide notice and an opportunity to object if the relocation was to another state or more than 150 miles from the other parent’s residence.
The new statute, WIS. STAT. § 767.481, only requires notice for relocations more than 100 miles from the other parent’s residence, regardless if the move is to another state. The parent seeking to move must first file a motion with the court seeking permission for the child(ren)’s relocation. The motion must contain a relocation plan, including the following: the date of the relocation; the municipality and state of the new residence; the reason for the relocation; a proposed new placement schedule, including placement during the school year, summers, and holidays; and responsibility and allocation of costs for each parent for transportation of the child between the parties under the proposed new placement schedule. WIS. STAT. § 767.481(1)(b)1.
If the parent is requesting a change in legal custody, that request must also be included in the motion. Finally, the motion must notify the other parent that if they object to the relocation, then he or she must file and serve their objection and any alternate proposal no later than five days before the initial hearing or within five days after appearing at the hearing. The “Objection to Relocation” form, found here, must be included when the initial motion to relocate is served on the other parent.
Within 30 days of the filing the relocation motion, the Court must hold an initial hearing; the child cannot be relocated prior to this hearing. At the initial hearing, the Court can grant the relocation if the other parent was properly served and does not appear at the hearing, or if the other parent does not object to the relocation. However, if the other parent objects, the Court will refer the parties to mediation and appoint a guardian ad litem. If the parties are not able to reach an agreement in mediation, or if mediation is waived, the guardian ad litem will commence work on the case and provide a recommendation to the Court. The Court must set a final hearing to be held within 60 days of the initial hearing. This means that relocation motions are decided within 90 days of filing.
Realistically, even a move of less than 100 miles will still require some type of change in placement and will create issues with the children’s school, activities, etc. If the parties are not able to agree on a new placement schedule, the party seeking to move less than 100 miles, while they are not required to file a motion to relocate, may still need to file a motion to change placement. If you have questions regarding motions to relocate or change placement, you should consult with an attorney.