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Understanding Child Custody Agreements and Orders: What You Need to Know


Understanding Child Custody Agreements and Orders: What You Need to Know

by Spencer Wingert, Associate Attorney


Child custody agreements are legal documents that outline the rights and responsibilities of parents or guardians regarding the care, custody, and visitation of their children after a divorce or separation. These agreements are crucial for ensuring the well-being of the children involved and providing clarity for both parents. In this blog post, we’ll explore what child custody agreements are, why they are essential, and how they are typically structured.

In the event the parties cannot reach an agreement, the court will issue an order containing the same terms outlined below.

What Is a Child Custody Agreement?

A child custody agreement, also known as a parenting plan or custody order, is a legally binding document that specifies how parents will share the responsibilities of raising their children. It addresses several key aspects of child custody, including:

  1. Legal Custody: Legal custody pertains to decision-making authority for important matters such as education, healthcare, religion, and extracurricular activities. It can be jointly assigned to both parents, which is the standard in Wisconsin, or solely granted to one parent which is exceptionally rare. In some instances joint legal custody may be granted, but with decision making on specific topics, such as medical, granted to one parent.
  1. Physical Placement: This defines where the child will live and the schedule for visitation by the non-custodial parent. It can shared, exclusive to one parent, or somewhere in between. There are a wide range of possibilities that the respective parties could agree to, or the court could order. The placement schedule typically includes holiday scheduling, vacation terms, and distinguished schedules between the school year and the summer months.
  1. Child Support: Child custody agreements often include provisions for child support, outlining how financial support will be provided for the child’s needs. Child support is calculated based off the percentage of placement of the parties, and in instances of a shared placement schedule, the income of the respective parties is also used.
  1. Communication: It may specify how parents will communicate with each other about the child’s well-being and any significant decisions. In some circumstances, communication between the parties may be limited to only communication necessary for the exchange and care of the children.
  1. Dispute Resolution: In case disagreements arise, the agreement may provide guidelines for dispute resolution, such as mediation or seeking legal counsel.
  1. Modification Procedure: In some situations, the parties may agree to specific terms for modifying the agreement if circumstances change, such as a parent’s relocation or a child’s evolving needs.

Why Are Child Custody Agreements Important?

  1. Child’s Best Interest: The primary focus of any custody agreement is the well-being and best interests of the child. These agreements help ensure stability and a consistent environment for the child, even when parents are no longer together.
  1. Clarity and Predictability: Child custody agreements provide clear guidelines for both parents, reducing conflict and uncertainty. Knowing their respective roles and responsibilities helps parents cooperate more effectively.
  1. Legal Protection: A formal custody agreement offers legal protection to both parents. It ensures that each parent’s rights and responsibilities are legally recognized and enforceable.
  1. Minimizing Disputes: Having a well-defined agreement can help prevent future disputes and disagreements between parents, fostering a more amicable co-parenting relationship.


Child custody agreements are essential documents that provide a framework for co-parenting after divorce or separation. They prioritize the child’s best interests, promote cooperation between parents, and offer legal protection for everyone involved. Crafting a well-thought-out custody agreement is a vital step toward ensuring a stable and nurturing environment for children during challenging times. It’s often advisable to seek legal counsel when creating or modifying a child custody agreement to ensure it complies with local laws and adequately addresses the unique needs of your family. Once a child custody and placement order has been put in place, either by order of the court, or by stipulation of the parties approved by the court, modification can be incredibly difficult. As this is just a general discussion of custody and placement agreements or orders, legal counsel may be necessary to understand the complexities of the process or your unique situation. Contact Russell Law Offices for a consultation today!


Spencer Wingert

Associate Attorney

Jefferson, Fort Atkinson

About Spencer Wingert is a dedicated Family Law attorney located in our Jefferson County offices. Spencer takes pride in providing a crucial service to his clients in their time of need. It is important to him to provide high-quality service to people in their most vulnerable time of need and provide a positive experience. Spencer […]

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