Milwaukee Child Support Professionals

When your livelihood, and the livelihood of your family, depends upon child support, you need the professionals

The Wisdom of Solomon:  When is shared placement appropriate?

When faced with the problem of two women claiming to be the mother of the same baby, wise King Solomon proposed an ingenious solution:  He would take a sword and split the baby, giving each woman half.   Naturally, one of the women protested, and she offered to let the other woman have the child.   King Solomon then knew who the real mother was-- the woman who could not bear to see the child harmed.


In disputed placement cases, judges are sometimes faced with issues that are no less difficult than the problem faced by King Solomon.  In a divorce, one parent frequently demands "shared placement" of the children; whereas the other parent seeks the more traditional arrangement of primary placement and then periods of temporary placement (visitation) with the other parent.  Wisconsin's Family Law Code, Chapter 767 of the Wisconsin Statutes, permits the court to "allocate periods of physical placement" but does not use the phrase "shared placement."   The common meaning of shared placement is a 50/50 allocation of placement.    A shared placement schedule may be in your family's best interest in the event of a divorce; however, in many cases it is unworkable.  This articles addresses some of the issues involved in shared placement.  Sometimes the better parent-- the real parent-- is the one who agrees to allow the other to have greater periods of placement (primary placement), in order to avoid harm to the children.


What is your motive for demanding shared placement?


A shared placement schedule has many difficulties, and it can only work if both parents are committed to making it work.  Thus, before you embark on expensive and uncertain litigation over a shared placement demand, you should examine your motives. 


Firstly, you must ask yourself whether  a shared placement schedule truly is in your children's best interest; or might it simply be better to agree upon "subtantial periods of placement" for each parent?   Very few children in intact homes see each parent exactly fifty percent of the time.   This certainly does not mean that either parent is less than equal.   It is difficult to articulate many reasons that a shared placement schedule is better than substantial placement with each parent.  From the perspective of the children, shared placement means two homes, two bedrooms, two sets of clothes, and so forth.


It is perhaps easier, though, to identify the bad motives for seeking shared placement.  You should not seek shared placement simply because it will result in a lower child support payment.   You should not seek shared placement because such an arrangement symbolically proves that you are an "equal parent".   You should not seek shared placement because this is the one thing that your soon-to-be ex-spouse fears most.


When can shared placement work?


In order for shared placement to work, several factors must be present.  Firstly, the parents must be able to communicate with one another.  Many shared placement schedules are "week on/ week off".  Thus, there will be a fairly substantial period where the "off" parent does not have direct access to the children.  Nonetheless, there are likely to be numerous parental decisions that need to be made; and the children probably will not want to go a week without at least talking to the other parent.   This cannot occur, though, if the parents cannot communicate.  


The parents must have similar parenting styles.   A shared placement schedule cannot work if each of the parents has vastly different parenting styles.   Children need structure and routine; and it certainly will not be in their best interests if, in each household, there are wildly different expectations, rules, and morals.  It is not in the children's best interest if a parent is constantly saying, "You may do it that way at your father's/mother's house-- but that's not how we do it here."


The parents must live in close proximity to one another.  This is absolutely critical in order for a shared placement schedule to work.  It is not possible for the children to attend one school while they are placed with their mother, and another school when placed with their father.  Similarly, it is not possible for the children to have one set of friends for one week, and an entirely separate set of friends for another week.    No Little League baseball team will accept a player who is there only every other week. 


If you have bad motives for seekings shared placement, or if any of the factors mentioned above are missing in your case, you are well advised to not seek shared placement.  It will not work for the parents and, more importantly, it will not be in the best interests of your children.

Jeffrey W. Jensen is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin family law attorney with twenty-six years experience in guiding people through the legal difficulties involved in ending a marriange.  Mr. Jensen's offices are located at 735 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 1200, in Milwaukee.   For a free consulation, click the telephone icon: