Contrary to popular misconception, custody does not address where your child lives on a regular basis. Instead, the Wisconsin statute on child custody covers the parents’ participation in making major decisions on how to raise the child. The concept encompasses how parents determine issues ranging from education, religion, and health care to entertainment, extracurricular activities, travel, and more.
Even when parents can generally agree that they want what is best for the child, there can be disputes and challenges with the details. You can rely on our lawyers at Karp & Iancu, S.C. to advise you on key child custody issues, as family law is our core practice area. We have decades of combined experience representing parents when these issues arise in divorce and paternity cases, so please contact us to learn details. You can schedule a no-cost consultation with one of our Kenosha child custody attorneys, though some general information is also useful.
Overview of Wisconsin Child Custody Laws
To reiterate, custody is not about residential arrangements but pertains to parental decision making on the important issues that impact their child’s life. There are two types of custody under Wisconsin law:
- Sole Custody: One parent has the legal power to make major decisions on raising the child. This form of custody is rare, but may be appropriate in situations of domestic violence or criminal activity.
- Joint Custody: The laws presume a custody arrangement that enables both parents to participate in decision making is best for the child. Joint custody engenders a solid relationship between the child and each parent.
Though custody does not address where the child lives day-to-day, living arrangements are important for purposes of child “placement.” This concept refers to a parent’s right to spend time with the child, very similar to what you know familiarly as visitation. There are also two types of child placement:
- Primary Placement: Even in a situation of joint custody, the child may mainly reside with one parent. The arrangement is considered primary placement when the child spends 75 percent or more of overnights in one home. This scenario does not change decision making for joint custody.
- Shared Placement: When the child spends more than 25 percent of nights with each parent, the legal term is shared placement.
Placement is important for ensuring that the child has the best possible relationship with each parent, but it is also critical when turning to the issue of child support.
Best Interests of the Child Standard
Whether the matter comes up in divorce or a paternity case, there is one paramount consideration the court will assess in determining child custody: The child’s best interests, which take precedence even over the interests of the parents. The judge weighs several important factors, such as:
- The child’s relationships with each parent;
- The child’s age and developmental needs;
- How parents divided parenting tasks in the past;
- Each parent’s ability to co-parent;
- How well the parents can communicate and cooperate with parenting tasks;
- The child’s wishes, if appropriate;
- How a child custody arrangement would impact the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
- The mental and physical health of the parents and child; and
- Many other relevant details.
Options for Resolving Child Custody Issues
Though there may be legal proceedings connected to a child custody matter, parents are not required to go to court for a decision. In fact, Wisconsin laws actually encourage parents to agree on child custody and placement, and put together a parenting plan that memorializes the arrangement. Plus, if you can agree on some issues and are open to negotiations in others, mediation is often effective for resolving disputes on child custody.
The judge will still need to review the parenting plan to ensure it meets the child’s best interests standard, but there are numerous advantages of reaching an agreement or mediating custody matters:
- Parents have control over how they will work together to make important decisions on how to raise the child.
- When they resolve child custody via compromise, both parents are more likely to uphold their end of the bargain.
- Parents must continue to interact with each other, perhaps for years under a child custody order. Communication is easier when they both contributed to the arrangement that the family lives under.
- Agreements and mediation for child custody are faster than going to trial, while also reducing legal costs.
Not all child custody disputes can be resolved by agreement, and attempts to negotiate may not be suitable in some cases. It will be necessary to go through a contested hearing on child custody, at which point the judge will make a decision by applying the child’s best interests factors to the facts.
How an Attorney Assists with Custody Matters
Our Kenosha child custody lawyers at Karp & Iancu, S.C. will guide you through the legal process and take care of all essential tasks as necessary to protect your interests. You can count on us to:
- Collect all evidence to support your position;
- Diligently negotiate an arrangement for child custody and placement;
- Prepare all documents related to a child custody agreement;
- Advocate on your behalf during mediation;
- Enter all necessary orders stemming from a child custody agreement and/or mediation; and
- Represent you in court for a contested hearing on child custody.