This is a brief overview of what happens when a divorcing couple are unable reach a mutual agreement with regard to placement of their children after the divorce.
During a divorce in Dane County, if unfortunately the parents are unable to reach an agreement on physical placement, there is normally a certain process the parents must go through to determine placement in the final judgment.
Both parents will first be referred to mediation with an experienced mediator in physical placement disputes. Mediation is where both parents meet with the mediator in a conference room together and the mediator tries to get the parents to reach some type of placement agreement. The mediator is not a judge and cannot make the parents agreement on placement. A placement agreement during mediation is completely voluntary.
If mediation is unsuccessful, the the court will order a family placement study conducted by the Dane County Family Court Counseling services. They will conduct a placement investigation which will include both parents, the children, and any other person they deem relevant to their placement determination. This could include teachers, daycare providers or other family members. After they investigation is complete, Family Court Counseling Services will provide a written recommendation on physical placement.
After this recommendation is provided, if the parents still cannot reach an agreement on physical placement, then the court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem for the children.
A Guardian Ad Litem, or GAL, is an attorney who has been appointed to represent the “best interests” of the children. The GAL will conduct his or her own investigation regarding placement. The GAL will then provide their own written recommendation regarding placement after this investigation is completed.
If after the GAL’s recommendation the parents are still not able to reach an agreement on physical placement, then the court will schedule a court trial on the issue of physical placement as well as any other issues that are still contested.
At this court hearing, both parents will have an opportunity to present their evidence and argument regarding what placement schedule they believe is in the best interests of the children. The GAL will also be present during the court trial and will have an opportunity to present evidence and argument supporting the GAL’s recommendation. The trial judgment will have the recommendation of Family Court Services and the GAL before making the Court decision and order on placement. After hearing all of the evidence, recommendations and argument, the trial judgment will make a final determination and order regarding physical placement.