- When parents can’t agree, child custody can be one of the most contentious and complex issues to resolve during a divorce. Parents who won’t work together on custody and placement matters may have no choice but to have a Wisconsin divorce court determine what is best for their child. If you and your ex disagree about these issues, you will need to know: What factors will a Wisconsin court consider about child custody in my divorce?
Legal Custody and Physical Placement
What is Legal Custody?
- In Wisconsin, the term legal custody refers to a parent’s authority to make decisions regarding their child. This authority typically includes the power to make choices about matters that impact a child’s daily life and routine.
- Under Wisconsin law, when both parents are appropriate, it is presumed that joint or shared legal custody is in the child’s best interest.
- If you have legal custody, that may mean you have decision-making authority over matters such as where your kids go to school, who provides their medical care, and what kind of treatment they can receive.
- Depending on the details of your custody order, one parent may also have exclusive decision-making over certain issues, such as where your child lives and attends religious services.
What is Physical Placement?
- Physical placement refers to the time a parent has their child with them.
- When both parents are safe, Wisconsin law requires that the court “set a placement schedule that allows the child to have regularly occurring, meaningful periods of physical placement with each parent and that maximizes the amount of time the child may spend with each parent, taking into account geographic separation and accommodations for different households.”
- In many cases, parents will decide on a placement schedule that fits their circumstances. However, if they cannot agree, the court will examine several aspects of the parent-child relationship in determining how to set the placement schedule.
Best Interests Factors
- Wisconsin divorce courts consider numerous factors when deciding child custody and physical placement. Namely, the court will look at matters such as: the wishes of the child or parents, parental cooperation and communication, how much parents are likely to support one another’s relationship with their child, sibling relationships, parent-child relationships, whom a parent is dating, the household composition, the child’s and other household members’ mental health, the child’s developmental stages, and the child’s adjustment their home, school, religion, and community, we well as other factors. Additionally, issues related to substance abuse and violence will also be taken into account. These “best interests” factors are designed to consider multiple aspects of a child’s life and circumstances. Further, the list is comprehensive but not exhaustive, meaning that the court is also free to examine practically anything that may impact a child’s home life, health, and stability.
- Ultimately, the court’s focus will be on relevant facts about your child’s life and determining how certain custody and physical placement arrangements may impact their well-being. During this process, the degree to which parents put their children in the middle of their divorce will matter to the court. For instance, if one parent routinely disparages the other around their kids or discusses the divorce with them, it can be harmful and damaging. Further, when parents interfere with each other’s placement time or access to their children, it is usually concerning to the court. Depending on the circumstances, the presence of a new partner, step-parent, and other kids may also be an important issue in the court’s eyes.
- Divorce can be painful and hard on everyone, especially children. Therefore, Wisconsin child custody and placement laws are centered around supporting children’s welfare. The best interest factors are there to help the court determine the most beneficial ways for parents to share decision-making and placement time. Outside of concerning circumstances, the law presumes that it’s better for kids when their parents can share custody and have substantial placement time with them.
Contact a Wisconsin Child Custody Attorney
- When parents can put their differences aside for the sake of their kids, they are often able to work out child custody and physical placement without fighting in court. However, sometimes this level of co-parenting collaboration is not realistic or possible. If you and your ex can’t agree on custody and placement, it’s essential that you consult with an experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney. Your counsel can help you examine the Wisconsin best-interest factors and explain how they may impact your case.
- Wisconsin Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law has extensive experience assisting clients with child custody matters before, during, and after divorce and can help you determine your next steps. If you have a child custody matter in the greater Milwaukee area, please get in touch with us to schedule a consultation.