When you divorce with minor children, it’s likely you and your ex will share placement and custody. This will mean cooperating in terms of your shared parenting schedule, but what happens when your ex’s family wants time with your kids too?
Do my ex-in-laws have a right to visitation with my children?
Wisconsin law provides that grandparents, great-grandparents, stepparents, or persons who have maintained a parent-type relationship with a child can ask the court for reasonable visitation rights. However, the parents must have notice of any hearing, and visits will only be allowed if the court determines that they are in the best interest of the child.
While these individuals may have the right relationship to get into court, there is no guarantee that they can establish visits that are best for the child. Although the law favors a child having supportive adults in their life, the United States Supreme Court has held that due process requires that courts apply a presumption that a fit parent’s decision to deny or grant visitation to other parties is in their child’s best interest. If both parents are fit and oppose visitation, the court may find against the requesting party.
Recently, the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard a case concerning grandparent visitation, where a circuit court found in favor of a grandmother who asked the court for visitation rights. The grandmother was awarded one week of time in the summer with her grandchild.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court vacated the circuit court’s order holding that the Grandparent Visitation Statute was unconstitutional as applied to the parents. In this case, both parents were fit and objected to her visitation, and the grandmother did not overcome the presumption that the parent’s decision was in their child’s best interest.
In practicality, your children are likely to see your in-laws when they are with your ex, and you may decide that grandparent and other relative visits are acceptable. However, if your former in-laws present a threat to your child or are making disparaging comments about you to them, you will need to address the issue with your ex and may have to involve the court.