A large percentage of the cases we handle involve changing existing placement orders. Those changes are subject to a state statute that greatly restricts a court's ability to change placement orders within two years of a "final judgment." I will spare you the technical legalities. Suffice it to say that, unless you can show the current placement order is harmful to the physical or emotional well-being of a child, you will not be able to make a substantial change to placement within that two year time frame.
This statute is meant to prevent parents from running back to court every time something changes in their, or their children's, lives. However, a side effect of this statute is that the court is prevented from substantially changing placement orders, even though significant changes may have occurred in the parents' or children's lives since that time. One area this is particularly relevant is in the case of a newborn child. A newborn has a completely different set of needs than a two year old, however current law prevents placement from changing within that two year period. This results in hard-fought, emotional litigation since the parents know that whatever the placement order from the court is, they will likely have to live with it for the next two years.
Two State legislators are sponsoring a bill to address this problem. Their bill would allow the court to anticipate future changes and create a placement schedule that would change along with those events. This would, hopefully, prevent parents from having to come back to court by allowing the court to craft a placement schedule that changes as parents lives change.
I, for one, support this legislation. I believe the more flexible a judge or family court commissioner is allowed to be, the more a placement schedule can be crafted to suit the needs of each individual family. The Family Law Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin supports this legislation as well.
For an article on the proposed legislation click here
The proposed legislation is Assembly Bill 551 and the text of the bill itself can be found here