Terese J. Singer

Impact of Restraining Orders on Custody and Visitation

Wisconsin Lawyers Protecting You Against the Consequences of a Restraining Order

Restraining orders are a common mechanism of legal enforcement in domestic violence cases. Spouses may seek restraining orders against each other when one party has been violent toward the other, or when there are concerns about the safety of children. While restraining orders can provide immediate assurances and safety to potential victims, they can also have a significant long-term impact on child custody and visitation arrangements. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our Milwaukee child custody lawyers frequently advise clients on the foreseeable effects of seeking a restraining order or having an order enforced against them.

Understanding Potential Types of Restraining Orders

In Wisconsin, individuals who fear harm from another person can seek two different types of restraining orders as protection. The most immediate response to harm is a temporary restraining order (TRO), which can be obtained by filing a simple petition with the court. After the petition is filed, the court will review it to determine whether to grant a 14-day order that prohibits another individual from contacting the petitioner. After a TRO is granted, the court will likely follow up by scheduling a full hearing to determine whether a final protection order, or final injunction, should be granted. A final injunction lasts much longer than a TRO and can be granted for up to four years in domestic abuse cases and two years in child abuse cases.

The Impact of Restraining Orders on Custody and Visitation

When a court is considering whether to grant custody or visitation rights to a parent, the fundamental question that the court must consider is what is in the best interests of the child. Among the factors that the court must consider in making this determination are the health and well-being of the child, the stability of the child in a certain home setting, and whether there has been any history of violence or abuse by either parent.

If a parent has a prior or current restraining order based on domestic abuse or child abuse, this will be considered by the court in evaluating custody and visitation rights. The indication that one parent may be violent can be enough for the court to deny joint custody to that parent. When there is a history of chronic abuse, Wisconsin law actually requires that the court presume that it is not in the best interest of the child for that parent to have sole or joint custody. In certain extreme situations, a court may even terminate a parent’s parental rights if there is evidence of extensive and ongoing abuse or neglect.

It is also important to understand that the granting of a final injunction can immediately affect any existing custody arrangements or orders. A temporary or final restraining order will supersede any existing custody orders and prevent a parent from visiting a child or spouse while the restraining order is in place. If a final injunction is finalized, it may require new custody and visitation orders to be completed simultaneously in order to avoid conflicting orders of the court.

Wisconsin law does not prohibit parents from visiting with their children even if there is a past history of abuse or neglect, or a past restraining order. However, a judge may require that the parent undertake supervised visitation in order to make sure that a child is protected while visiting with their parent. Supervised visitation can be ongoing or for a short duration of time. As with custody arrangements, if a restraining order is granted during an existing visitation schedule, the visitation schedule will need to accommodate the restraining order, even if this means suspending visitation for an extended period of time.

Discuss Your Options with a Child Custody Lawyer in Milwaukee

If you are considering seeking a restraining order against a spouse or ex-spouse who is the parent of your child and are concerned about how that may affect the relationship with the child, or if you are a parent facing the possibility of a restraining order, you should talk with an experienced attorney as soon as possible about the impact of a restraining order on custody and visitation. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our Milwaukee attorneys can walk you through the restraining order process and how it may affect your custody or visitation arrangements. Contact our office for more information at (414) 271-6400 or online. We represent people in Milwaukee, Port Washington, Racine, West Bend, Waukesha, and other areas of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington, and Waukesha Counties.

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