Once a judge creates a child custody order, it will likely become permanent unless there is a major change or issue to consider (such as relocation, abuse, or incarceration). Whether you want to dispute the court’s child custody decision or simply have questions about the process, you need knowledgeable legal help on your side. Count on the Wauwatosa child custodyattorneys at Karp & Iancu, S.C. to assist you with child custody matters.
Types of Child Custody
In Wisconsin, there are several types of child custody that you need to be aware of:
- Legal. This refers to the power to make important decisions for your children, such as medical care, education, and religion.
- Physical. Also known as physical placement, this refers to physical possession of the child. This is usually categorized by the number of overnight stays. Primary placement is when a child spends more than 75% of their overnights with one parent. Shared placement is when each parent has the child for more than 25% of the time.
- Joint. The courts generally work toward the child having a relationship with both parents. This means joint custody is the norm under Wisconsin law. Parents with joint custody share legal and physical custody.
- Sole. This is when just one parent has authority to make major decisions for the child. This is rare, but can happen in cases where one person has shown signs of being an incapable parent, such as for reasons due to abuse, neglect, incarceration, or substance abuse.
Best Interests of the Child
When a court makes a determination regarding child custody, it is based on the best interests of the child. The best interests of the child are based on various factors. Courts take a holistic approach in this regard and won’t focus on any one factor. What the judge will consider will vary based on each case, as no two divorces and situations are alike. A judge will look at factors such as the following, based on Wisconsin Legislature 767.41, Custody and Physical Placement:
- The wishes of the child’s parents
- The wishes of the child (if old enough)
- The child’s age and educational and developmental needs
- The relationship between the parents and children
- The amount of time the parents have spent with the children in the past
- How well the child has adjusted to their current home, school, and community
- The mental and physical health of those in the custodial household
- The cooperation and communication between the parents
- The need for stability and predictability for the children
Child custody cases are not always initiated by divorce. There are situations in which an unmarried woman gives birth to a child and wants to establish custody and support orders. In these cases, the alleged father must establish his paternity. There are several ways to do this. A man might agree he is the father and consent to paternity. This is the easiest option but not the most common one. In most cases, the court will order a DNA test to prove paternity. It is also possible for a man to initiate a paternity action if he wants to be a part of the child’s life.
Child custody is not always tied to child support. For the most part, child support is based on each parent's income, how much time a child spends with each parent, and if the parent is financially supporting other children. The amount a parent pays is typically based on gross income and assets. Each state has standards, guidelines, and formulas in place. If you have concerns about child support, contact your lawyer.
If you and the other parent share physical placement, fairly dividing the time you spend with the children can be a point of contention. That’s because each parent may have different ideas on how the children should spend their time with their parents. This is especially true when it comes to how children will spend summer breaks, Christmas vacations, spring breaks, and other time off from school. There are calendars and apps that can help parents effectively share custody. In cases where the parents cannot agree, though, court may be the only answer. The judge may have to decide with whom children will spend their time. It is always better if parents can negotiate on their own, though.
Wisconsin courts are aware that life can change. Sometimes child custody orders have to be modified for various reasons. Perhaps one parent wishes to relocate. It’s possible that one parent is abusing or neglecting the child. Or maybe you and the other parent have agreed to a change in custody due to various circumstances. In these cases, if you and the other parent both agree, you can file a stipulation. It is recommended that you try to settle custody issues outside of court, but if you cannot agree, then you may need the court to make a decision.