On April 3, 2018, the Wisconsin legislature passed 2017 Wisconsin Act 203. Act 203 repealed Wis. Stat. 767.481 (the removal statute) and completely replaces it under the same statute section number. The new relocation statute applies to all new paternity and divorce actions filed after April 5, 2018. The old removal statute continues to apply to paternity and divorce actions filed before April 5, 2018.

New Distances

The new relocation statute changes the distances when certain provisions apply. A more-lengthy process to inform the other parent and seek court approval for the relocation used to apply to out of state removals and removals of more than 150 miles. Now, it applies to any move greater than 100 miles from the residence of the other parent, unless the parents already live more than 100 miles apart.

If the parents already live more than 100 miles apart, the parent proposing the relocation must give at least 60 days’ notice of the proposed relocation, the date on which they intend to relocate, and the parent’s new address. At that point, the notified parent must file a motion with the court requesting the move be denied, or the moving parent may relocate.

New Notification Procedure/Relocation Plan

For moves greater than 100 miles, instead of requiring the parent proposing the move to send a Notice of Intent to Move, the new act requires the moving parent to file a Motion with the Court. The Motion must contain a detailed relocation plan. The Motion must also have an “Objection to Relocation” form attached for the other parent.

New Objection and Court Procedure

An initial hearing on the Motion to Relocate must be heard within 30 days from the date the Motion is filed. The Court must then take certain actions depending on whether the non-moving parent shows up to the hearing and objects to the relocation.

Interestingly, the statute requires the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) at this initial hearing regardless of whether the parties have attended mediation. The GAL may not begin their investigation until after they receive notice that the parties were unable to reach an agreement at mediation.

At this initial hearing, the Court may or may not issue a temporary order allowing the parent to relocate with the child(ren). That temporary order is, of course, subject to revision at a final hearing, if necessary.

New Standards for Relocation

The new statute also categorizes different custody and placement scenarios and creates different presumptions based on those scenarios.

Because the new statute’s standards are somewhat complex, parents considering a move with their child(ren) should consult an attorney who is familiar with the new act before informing their children or the other parent of their intentions.