An Overview of Child Custody Laws in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, the term ‘child custody’ refers to the concept of decision-making authority. The day-to-day living arrangement of the child is a separate matter. A parent with custody has the right to make important decisions regarding the child’s life, including in areas such as education and health. Here are some of the specific key things to know about the child custody laws in Wisconsin:
- Two Main Types of Custody in Wisconsin: In Wisconsin, custody arrangements can be divided into one of two broad categories: Sole custody and joint custody. With sole custody, one parent has the exclusive right to make decisions for the child. With joint custody, both parents retain decision-making authority and must work together to come to the appropriate arrangement.
- State Policy Favors Shared Parenting (Joint Custody): It is state policy in Wisconsin that it is inherently better for a child to have an active, positive relationship with both parents whenever possible. With that in mind, state courts presume that joint custody is appropriate. That being said, sole custody can be awarded when deemed necessary to protect the child’s health, safety, and well-being.
- Paternity is the Basis for a Father’s Rights (and Responsibilities): In Wisconsin, a man lacks parental rights unless paternity has been established. For married men, paternity is generally straightforward: Rights and responsibilities are automatic. However, unmarried men must take proactive steps to establish paternity, either through a jointly submitted voluntary acknowledgment form or administrative action (DNA testing). A man cannot claim custody rights—nor be ordered to pay child support—without paternity. Our Madison custody and visitation attorneys can help you navigate matters of paternity.
- Understanding the Best Interests of the Child Standard: Our state uses the best interests of the child standard in custody cases. Under Wisconsin law (Wis. Stat. § 767.41), any child custody dispute is resolved by determining what arrangement is best for a child. The desires of parents are always secondary to the child’s best interests. If you have any questions about the best interests of the child standard, our Madison child custody attorneys can help.
What to Know About Physical Placement in Wisconsin
As mentioned previously, Wisconsin uses the term child custody to refer to the concept of parental/guardian decision-making authority. Along with custody, there is a related matter known as ‘physical placement.’ The concept of physical placement refers to where a child actually spends their time on a daily and long-term basis. In general, physical placement arrangements in Wisconsin fit into two main categories:
- Primary Physical Placement: With primary physical placement, the child spends most of their time living with one parent. It is a primary physical placement arrangement if the child spends at least three quarters (75) percent of nights with one parent. You might hear this called “primary custody”——but it is technically a different thing because a parent who lacks primary physical placement can still have joint custody, meaning they may still have decision-making authority.
- Shared Physical Placement: Shared physical placement occurs when a child splits their nights between the two parents. If a child spends at least one quarter of nights (25 percent) with both parents, then they are living in a shared physical placement. Shared physical placement may be an option for parents who can work reasonably well together and live in reasonably close proximity. If you have questions or concerns about shared physical placement, our Madison, WI custody lawyers can help.
We Emphasize Amicable Solutions in Custody & Visitation Cases
For a parent of young children in Madison, going through a divorce or a separation can be incredibly stressful. Most parents want to find amicable, collaborative answers that work effectively for their family.
At Karp & Iancu, S.C., our Madison child custody and visitation lawyers put a strong emphasis on helping our clients find low-conflict solutions. We have extensive experience in both family mediation and collaborative divorce.
At the same time, our child custody lawyers in Madison also understand that nothing should come between you and your children. We are a trial-tested family litigation firm that is prepared to take your custody or visitation case as far as necessary to protect your parental rights.
How the Madison Child Custody Lawyers at Karp & Iancu Can Help
Child custody disputes are complex. As a parent, you do not have to navigate the process alone. At Karp & Iancu, S.C., our firm has successfully represented more than 10,000 clients across a wide array of family law matters. We are ready to take a proactive approach. When you contact our Madison law office, you will have a chance to connect with our Madison child custody attorneys who can:
- Listen to your story, answer your questions, and explain your rights;
- Gather all relevant documents, records, and other documents;
- Represent you in child custody and visitation negotiations; and
- Take whatever action is needed to establish and protect your parental rights.