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Relocation Bill passes both houses in Wisconsin

 

A bill that was recently passed by both the State Assembly and now the State Senate changes the procedures for relocating a child’s residence, when a court grants any periods of physical placement with a child to both parents and one parent intends to relocate and reside with the child away from the other parent. It changes the distance from 150 miles to 100 miles, among other major changes from the existing law.

Under the existing law, if the court grants periods of physical placement to more than one parent, a parent is obligated to provide in advance, 60 days’ written notice to the other parent and the court of their intent to move with the child out of state, or more than 150 miles within the state from the other parent, or where removing the child from the state for more than 90 consecutive days. The notice of the intent to move must also provide the other parent the right to object within 15 days. If the parent objects to the move, generally one is not allowed to move away until a court hearing is held and the court determines if the move should be allowed or not. The parent objecting can also file a motion with the court objecting to the move and asking that they be given placement of the child.

Under the current law, upon notice of the objection, the court must refer the parents to mediation or other family court services and may appoint a guardian ad litem. If mediation fails to resolve the dispute, the court must appoint a guardian ad litem at  that point and may modify the legal custody or physical placement of the child in order to accommodate or prohibit the removal. Depending on how custody and placement are allocated between the parents, there are  a number of factors that the court has to consider, including whether modification is in the the children’s best interest.

Under the bill, if both parents are granted periods of physical placement with a child, a parent must obtain a court order before relocating with the child 100 miles or more away from the other parent.The only exception would be where the parties already live 100 miles away from one another. The new law also requires a parent to file a motion to remove the child’s residence and requires they provide a relocation plan. The changes to the law also require that an initial hearing be held on the motion to relocate within 30 days of filing of the motion.

If the other parent does not object or appear at the motion hearing, the court has to approve the relocation plan proposed by the parent who wants to relocate, unless the court finds that the relocation plan is not in the child’s best interest. Under the new law, if the parents are already living 100 miles away from each other, a parent who is proposing to relocate farther away, must provide 60 days’ advance written notice to the other parent.

Under the new law, if the other parent objects to the removal, the court must require a response from the objecting parent, refer the parties to mediation, appoint a guardian ad litem and set the matter for a second hearing, that must be scheduled within 60 days. After the initial hearing, but prior to the final hearing, the court may permit a parent to relocate with the child, subject to a revision at the final hearing, if the court finds that the relocation is in the minor child’s best interest.

Under the new law, if the proposed relocation plan does not affect the existing placement schedule or only minimally has an impact on the existing placement schedule, the court is required to approve the proposed relocation. If the proposed relocation will have more than a minimal effect on the existing placement schedule, in that event the court is required to consider the factors listed in custody and placement determinations.

Under the new law, there is a presumption in favor of granting the motion to relocate the child, if the objecting parent has not significantly exercised their court ordered placement or if the move is related to abuse.

At any time after a motion to relocate is filed with the court, the new law permits the parties to file a stipulated agreement with the court that specifies that neither parent has any objection to the planned relocation and that sets out any agreed upon modification to legal custody or periods of physical placement. The new law requires the court to incorporate the terms of the stipulation into an order for relocation or revised order of legal custody or physical placement, unless the court finds that the modification is not in the child’s best interest.

The major takeaways from the new law are; (1) the distance to move within the state is shortened from 150 miles to 100 miles; (2) it requires the party who wants to relocate to file a motion with the court; (3) it requires the court to hold an initial hearing within 30 days.

The bill has now passed both the State Assembly and the State Senate and goes to the Governor’s office for his approval. We will let you know, if the bill is signed into law by the Governor.

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