The new year brings with it hope for a new future. For numerous couples across the state of Wisconsin every year, January also marks when one spouse chooses to file for divorce. With the stress and pressure of the holidays behind you, it is much easier to focus on what you need to be healthy and happy in the new year. For some families, the only option may be divorce and the fresh start that it offers.

If you share children with your spouse, the prospect of divorce is likely frightening. You may worry about whether you will get to have an ongoing relationship with your children. After all, horror stories about custody outcomes are common. Understanding how the Wisconsin courts handle custody proceedings can help you understand the likely outcome in your case.

Sole custody scenarios are less common than they used to be

For many decades, the courts handled custody proceedings like a battle between the parents for who was a better authority figure. The judges would look at many factors and listen to emotional testimony before making a decision.

One parent would typically receive primary custody, while the other parent only received occasional visitation or partial custody. The desire to have primary or sole custody often fuels intense divorce battles, which research now shows is not good for the children.

Modern Wisconsin family courts focus more on the needs of the children than the desires of the parents. Barring rare and dangerous circumstances, shared custody situations are the preferred outcome.

The courts will typically try to split parental rights and responsibilities as evenly as possible. You can expect to see your ex regularly for exchange of custody, and you will have to come to terms with them regarding your parenting plan and expectations for your children.

When will Wisconsin consider sole custody in a divorce?

While co-parenting is now the preferred outcome for custody proceedings, it is not the only potential result from a contested custody case. There are certain situations in which the courts will allocate custodial rights to one parent instead of both.

Cases of abuse are a perfect example. If there is medical or legal documentation of abuse against the children or of a spouse, in front of the children, that can impact how the courts rule in a custody case.

The courts will also consider any documented issues with substance abuse, including addiction to alcohol or illegal drugs. Finally, parents in incredibly unstable circumstances, such as those without a place to live or a job, could find that the courts are hesitant to allocate parental rights to them.

Unless the circumstances of your marriage fall into one of those extreme situations, chances are good that you will have to share custody with your ex in a Wisconsin divorce.