Know the Two Types of Child Custody in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, the term “child custody” is best understood as decision-making authority over the child and their day-to-day activities. A parent who has custody of a child has the right to make decisions about the health, education, extracurricular activities, and other key matters. Broadly speaking, there are two types of child custody arrangements in Waukesha County:
- Joint Custody: With joint custody, both parents retain decision-making authority over the child. Joint custody is favored by courts in Wisconsin. There is a general presumption in the state that it is best for children and families when both parents retain custody.
- Sole Custody: While joint custody is generally preferred by courts, sole custody of a child can be awarded to one parent in Wisconsin. A court in Wisconsin will grant sole custody when deemed best to protect a child’s health, well-being, and their future.
Wisconsin Law: Physical Placement of a Child
Contrary to common misconceptions, child custody does not refer to where a child actually lives in Wisconsin. While that is how the law works in some states, in Wisconsin the term “physical placement” is used to cover the issue of where a child lives and spends their time. Custody is about parent/guardian decision-making authority. Placement of a child could fall into either of these categories:
- Primary Placement: When the child lives with one parent for at least 75 percent of all nights, that parent has primary physical placement of the child. Though, even in this circumstance, it is possible for the other parent to retain shared custody.
- Shared Placement: When a child “lives” with both parents regularly—meaning they spend more than 25 percent of nights with each parent—then there is shared placement. A shared placement arrangement could be 50/50, but that is not required. It could also be 60/40, 70/30, etc.
Disputes are Resolved Under the Best Interests of the Child Standard
Are you involved in a child custody dispute in Waukesha? If so, it is imperative that you understand how the disagreement will be adjudicated under state law. In Wisconsin, child custody disputes are resolved under the best interests of the child legal standard (Wis. Stat. § 767.41). Parental needs and parental desires are secondary issues in the eyes of a family law court. The court is tasked with determining the outcome (custody and placement arrangement) that is best for the child. A wide array of factors can be considered to apply the best interests of child standard. Here are the specific factors as quoted directly from the Wisconsin state statutes:
- “The wishes of the child's parent or parents, as shown by any stipulation between the parties, any proposed parenting plan or any legal custody or physical placement proposal submitted to the court at trial.
- The wishes of the child, which may be communicated by the child or through the child's guardian ad litem or other appropriate professional.
- The cooperation and communication between the parties and whether either party unreasonably refuses to cooperate or communicate with the other party.
- Whether each party can support the other party's relationship with the child, including encouraging and facilitating frequent and continuing contact with the child, or whether one party is likely to unreasonably interfere with the child's continuing relationship with the other party.
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest.
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parent or parents and the amount and quality of time that each parent has spent with the child in the past, any necessary changes to the parents' custodial roles, and any reasonable lifestyle changes that a parent proposes to make to maximize placement with the child.
- Whether any of the following has or had a significant problem with alcohol or drug abuse
- The child's adjustment to the home, school, religion, and community.
- The age of the child and the child's developmental and educational needs at different ages.
- Whether the mental or physical health of a party, minor child, or other person living in a proposed custodial household negatively affects the child's intellectual, physical, or emotional well-being.
- Whether any of the following has a criminal record or whether there is evidence that any of the following has engaged in abuse of the child or any other child or neglected the child or any other child:
- Whether there is evidence of interspousal battery, or domestic abuse;
- The reports of appropriate professionals if admitted into evidence.
- Any other factor that the court determines to be relevant.”
Ultimately, a Wisconsin court must determine what custody and placement relationship will best protect the child’s physical safety, emotional health, and overall social development. As a parent in a child custody dispute in Waukesha County, it is crucial that you put together a strong and well-supported case that demonstrates that you can provide the best home environment for your child. Doing so will put you in the best position to get your desired outcome.
We Help Families in Waukesha Work Towards Amicable Solutions
Child custody disputes can put a lot of pressure on a parent and their family. Not only are these cases legally and logistically complicated, but the emotions tend to run very high. At the same time, there are benefits to working towards an amicable agreement in a custody dispute. When it works, it can save time, money, and hurt feelings. It can also help to preserve a cooperative working relationship between parents going forward. We help parents find low-conflict solutions.
Of course, a settlement is simply not a viable option in every child custody dispute in Waukesha County. Quite the contrary, you could be dealing with an unstable or unreliable co-parent. Or you could simply be dealing with a co-parent who refuses to cooperate in good faith. Our trial-tested Wisconsin family lawyers have the skills and experience to take your child custody case wherever it is needed to protect your child and your legal rights.
How Our Waukesha Child Custody Lawyers Can Help
Going through a child custody dispute is never easy. For a parent, it is normal to feel stressed out and even overwhelmed. At Karp & Iancu, S.C., we have provided solutions-driven family law representation to clients in Wisconsin for more than three decades. Our legal team is here to help you find solutions. Among other things, our Waukesha child custody attorney is ready to:
- Listen to your story and answer questions about the child custody process;
- Gather and records, information, or evidence you need to support your case;
- Represent you in any child custody or parenting plan settlement negotiations; and
- Develop a strategy to protect your parental rights and your family.