Child Custody and Visitation
At Reddin & Singer, we understand that navigating a divorce where children are involved can be a very complicated and stressful process. Balancing the needs of your child while respecting the rights and wishes of both spouses can require significant negotiation and effort. Our family law lawyers can skillfully handle the complexities of child custody proceedings for Milwaukee individuals so that you can focus on providing your children with the emotional support they need to work through this difficult time. Attorney Terese Singer has the tenacity to advocate for your rights while trying to avoid the costs of an extended legal battle.Child Custody Rules in Wisconsin
Under Wisconsin law, legal custody over a child involves the legal right to make major decisions concerning his or her welfare, including issues related to health care and schooling. Legal custody is different from physical custody, which involves the actual time spent with each parent. In Wisconsin, this is often referred to as “physical placement.” A couple that is divorcing may choose to seek joint legal and physical custody of a child, or each may seek to get sole custody. Generally, however, courts presume that, if at all possible, joint custody by both parents is in the child’s best interest.
As an initial step in custody proceedings, Wisconsin law requires that parents who have been unable to reach an arrangement through negotiation or mediation complete a parenting plan. This document outlines the kind of legal custody or physical placement that the parent prefers and the specific details of how that will affect the child’s life. For instance, it should discuss how and when visitation would occur, how decisions would be made regarding health care and schooling decisions, and all other relevant parenting decisions. This plan must be filed within 60 days, or the parent waives the right to object to the other spouse’s parenting plan.
Generally, courts will strongly prefer to adopt a plan that supports joint parenting if one or both of the parents has requested such a relationship and three additional elements are satisfied. First, both parents must be capable of performing their required parental duties. Second, there must be no conditions existing at the time of the arrangement that would make joint custody extremely difficult. Third, both parents must have shown that they can cooperate in future decisions that may be required under a joint custody arrangement. Under this standard, mere squabbles will not be enough to justify a sole custody arrangement. Instead, a parent will typically have to show that serious concerns arise, such as neglect, prior abandonment, or a possibility of abuse.
When making a final determination about legal custody and the exact physical placement of the child, the judge will consider all factors relevant to the best interest of the child. These can include:
- The wishes of the child and the child’s parents
- The mental and physical health of the parents
- The demonstrated ability of either adult to properly function as a parent
- The child’s potential adjustment to a new school or community
- The effect on other relationships, such as with siblings or extended relatives
- Any ongoing health needs of the child
If you are contemplating the possibility of divorce or have just begun this process, it is essential that you find a lawyer who will take a strong stance in advocating for your best interest in the determination of legal custody and physical placement. Making sure that your voice is heard and your requests are supported by solid evidence is an important part of establishing an arrangement that works for you. At Reddin & Singer, our child custody attorneys have helped countless parents in Milwaukee and other Wisconsin communities fight for their parental rights. For more information, contact us at (414) 271-6400 or fill out our online form