Wisconsin law strongly supports the creation and maintenance of a nuclear family. To this end, child custody procedures in Wisconsin give great deference to the rights and interests of parents, and they are meant to protect those rights under most situations. Sometimes, however, parents simply are not the individuals best suited to take care of their children, or they may not even be available to take care of their children. In these circumstances, Wisconsin law permits guardians to be appointed to oversee a child’s needs and interests. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our Milwaukee guardianship lawyers can represent guardians or legal parents in related proceedings.
Guardianship is not simply the process of a parent informally designating an aunt or a grandparent as a child’s new representative. Instead, a guardian may only be appointed through a specific court procedure, which ensures that the recommended guardian is up to the task and that the rights of others involved in the child’s life are not unfairly restricted or overlooked.How Guardianship Works in Wisconsin
A guardianship in Wisconsin can take two forms. It can be a guardianship of a person or a guardianship of an estate. Clearly, a guardianship of a minor falls within the “person” category. A guardianship can also be a temporary or permanent arrangement. A temporary guardianship lasts for 60 days, with the possibility of extending it for an additional 60 days. A permanent guardianship is a guardianship for any longer period of time. Thus, even if a guardianship is only implemented for six months or a year, it is still considered a permanent guardianship.
When a child loses both parents, implementing a guardianship is a relatively straightforward process. However, when a child has at least one living parent, a guardianship will only be approved if the parent consents to the guardianship, or if the parent has been found unfit to parent. In Wisconsin, this typically means that the parent must be shown to be so deficient as to justify a termination of parental rights. When a parent exists, and that parent is fit to assert parental rights, the pursuit of a guardianship will usually fail.
In most guardianship cases, it is advisable to get the consent of any living parent before petitioning for the guardianship. Otherwise, a guardianship attorney in the Milwaukee area must help the non-parent collect and present very clear and overwhelming evidence that the child’s current biological parent is completely unfit. This can include gathering evidence that the parent is abusive, has engaged in neglect, or has a history of severe mental illness.
Once this evidence is gathered, a petition for guardianship can be filed. Notice must be provided to any legal parents, and the court will typically hold a hearing on the matter to determine the proper course of action.Guardian Ad Litems and Guardianships
Most cases for guardianships of minors require the appointment of a guardian ad litem during the guardianship case. This can seem a bit redundant unless you are a Milwaukee guardianship attorney who has gone through many of these cases, but the guardian ad litem acts to represent the best interests of the child during the proceedings. Typically, a proposed guardian will have their own attorney during the proceedings, as will any defending parent. But the child who is at the heart of the proceedings does not automatically have a legal advocate. This is the role that the guardian ad litem plays.
Often, the GAL will meet with the individuals petitioning for the guardianship, consider the evidence being presented, complete any additional investigation that is deemed necessary, and meet with the child to find out what the child prefers. After considering all of this information, the GAL will then make a recommendation to the court as to whether a guardianship is proper under the circumstances.Contact a Knowledgeable Guardianship Lawyer in the Milwaukee Area
Guardianships help protect children who do not have the normal support or guidance of a typical family structure. Since they give a third party individual control over a child and the right to make decisions on behalf of a child, they must be taken very seriously. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our attorneys work on both consensual and nonconsensual guardianship cases, and we can help you evaluate whether a guardianship request makes sense under your circumstances. Contact our office for more information at (414) 271-6400 or online. We also represent residents of Mequon, Racine, West Bend, Waukesha, and other communities in Racine, Washington, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, and Waukesha Counties.