Figuring out the best custody and placement arrangement for a children can be difficult, especially when parents can't seem to see eye to eye. Despite existing animosity between parents, it is the court's job to find a solution that is based on the best interest of the child.
Custody in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, when a court dictates that a parent has custody of a child, that means they bear the obligation of making vital decisions about a child's upbringing. In Wisconsin, this refers to five, specific vital decisions:
1. Whether the child may get married before reaching the age of 18,
2. Whether the child may join the military before reaching age 18,
3. Whether the child may obtain a driver's license before reaching age 18,
4. Whether the child will receive non-emergency health care, and
5. Choice of school and religion for the minor child.
In Wisconsin, the law presumes that joint legal custody is appropriate. That is, that the parents should both be consulted, participate in, and agree upon decisions regarding these issues involving their children. In rare circumstances, the court may order sole legal custody to one parent or the other. According to Wisconsin law, the court may not order sole legal custody to one parent unless it finds that doing so is in the best interest of the child AND that either of the following applies:
1. The parties agree, or
2. The parties do not agree but at least one party requests sole legal custody and the court specifically finds any of the following:
a. One party is not capable of performing parental duties and responsibilities or does not wish to have an active role in raising the child.
b. One or more conditions exist at that time that would substantially interfere with the exercise of joint legal custody.
c. The parties will not be able to cooperate in the future decision making required under an award of joint legal custody.
In making a finding that the parties will not be able to cooperate in future decision making, the court must consider, along with any other pertinent items, any reasons offered by a party objecting to joint legal custody. A court may make a determination that the parties will not be able to cooperate based upon evidence that either party engaged in abuse of the child, evidence of interspousal battery, or domestic abuse.
The term “physical placement” refers to where the child or children live on a regular basis. When a judge decides that a parent has primary physical placement, it means that that parent will regularly provide care for the child. When one parent is awarded primary physical placement, the other parent is often granted specific periods of physical placement that entitle them to spend time with their child or children. This includes time spent with the child on a schedule either agreed upon by the parties or set forth by the court. Usually, this will include a regular placement calendar as well as a holiday calendar, which takes precedence over the week to week arrangements. Often, the holiday schedule will alternate, allowing one parent a particular holiday in even years with the other parent have placement during that same holiday in odd years.
Many times, instead of one party being granted primary placement, the parties agree to or the court orders a shared placement schedule. This involves the party who has less time having at least 25% of the overnights in a year, or at least 92 overnights, with the child or children. This may be a 50/50 schedule, for example, an every other week schedule, with the parties exchanging placement on a certain day of the week, or a different schedule, where,one party may have placement on Monday and Tuesday every week, the other party has placement on Wednesday and Thursday every week, and the parties alternate a three-day weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) with their children. Sometimes, the arrangement is less than 50/50 but is still considered a shared placement schedule. Shared placement schedules also usually include a holiday schedule, which takes precedence over the regular calendar.
Occasionally, when one parent has engaged in undesirable behavior or the court deems that it is in the best interest of the child, conditions may be placed upon a parent's periods of physical placement. This may include supervision during the periods of placement, limiting the placement to visits during the day (without overnights) or other conditions. Sometimes these conditions are permanent, but often they can be removed when circumstances change.
Sometimes, particularly in busy counties, judges order primary physical placement to one parent and allow the other parent placement "at reasonable times with reasonable notice." These type of orders inevitably cause conflict, since what is reasonable to one parent may be unreasonable to the other. For example, Dad may think it is reasonable to see his child 50% of the time, where Mom only thinks it is reasonable for Dad to exercise periods of physical placement every other weekend. It is preferable to set forth the specific times and dates for periods of physical placement from the beginning, to avoid conflict in the future and provide a stable schedule for the children involved.
Experienced Child Custody Attorney
Going through a split with a partner is already hard, having to brawl with them over the custody of your child in court is harder. Having an experienced lawyer who can counsel you and provide you with useful advice can make the process go more smoothly. But more importantly, the assistance of a skilled child custody attorney can help you obtain an arrangement that reflects the best interest of your child or children. Each case is highly individualized, and the specifics of your case may be pivotal in getting the court to understand your relationship with your child or children. Discuss these details and any other matters that would be relevant to your case with experienced attorney Mara Spring. Contact her today for a consultation.