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This article will examine what factors the court uses when determining child custody in the state of Wisconsin. When parents separate, there needs to be a determination for what will happen with the minor child moving forward. In an ideal situation, the parents will be able to determine that schedule and make all arrangements amongst themselves. If parties cannot resolve those issues, the court may get involved to address issues related to the health and well-being of the minor child.  


What is Custody in Wisconsin?


Custody is the determination of legal decision-making for the minor child. This custody can be either joint custody or sole custody. Both parents may be able to make decisions, or only one parent will make all major decisions.  


What is the Difference Between Custody and Placement?


Placement is the determination of where the child lives and how often. A placement is related to where the child sleeps each day, and custody is related to who decides for the minor child. Both placement and custody can be joint or shared between the parents or sole if the court deems that appropriate.  


Can Parents Come to an Agreement Outside of Court related to Custody and Placement?


Yes, and it is preferred that the parents arrange their own. Parents are generally able to determine what is best for their child. If they cannot reach an agreement, the court can and will intervene.  

What happens if the Parents Cannot Reach a Placement Agreement?


Suppose the parents cannot reach an agreement. In that case, the court will hold a hearing on the matter and determine the custody arrangement and placement for the minor child after hearing all the evidence from the parents. If you are an unmarried father learn more about your rights in our article about child custody and parenting rights of unmarried fathers in Wisconsin.  

What Factors Does the Court Use in Determining Custody and Placement?


In deciding custody and placement, the court will apply the following factors:  

  1. The child's wishes may be communicated by the child or through the child's guardian ad litem or another appropriate professional.  
  1. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with their parent or parents, siblings, and any other person may significantly affect the child's best interest.  
  1. The amount and quality of time that each parent has spent with the child in the past, any necessary changes to the parents' custodial roles, and any reasonable lifestyle changes that a parent proposes to make to spend time with the child in the future.  
  1. The child's adjustment to the home, school, religion, and community
  1. The age of the child and the child's developmental and educational needs at different ages
  1. Whether the mental or physical health of a party, minor child, or other person living in a proposed custodial household negatively affects the child's intellectual, physical, or emotional well-being.  
  1. The need for regularly occurring and meaningful periods of physical placement to provide predictability and stability for the child.  
  1. The availability of public or private child care services.  
  1. The cooperation and communication between the parties and whether either party unreasonably refuses to cooperate or communicate with the other party.  
  1. Whether each party can support the other party's relationship with the child, encouraging and facilitating frequent and continuing contact with the child, or whether one party is likely to unreasonably interfere with the child's continuing relationship with the other party.
  1. Whether there is evidence that a party engaged in abuse of the child
  1. Whether any of the following has a criminal record and whether there is evidence that any of the following has engaged in abuse of the child or any other child or neglected the child or any other child:  
  • A person with whom a parent of the child has a dating relationship
  • A person who resides has resided or will reside regularly or intermittently in a proposed custodial household
  1. Whether there is evidence of interspousal battery or domestic abuse
  1. Whether either party has or had a significant problem with alcohol or drug abuse
  1. The reports of appropriate professionals if admitted into evidence.  
  1. Such other factors as the court may in each case determine to be relevant  

Does the Court Still Apply the Tender Years Doctrine?


No, the tender years doctrine is still not in effect. This doctrine was the belief that all children should remain with their mother during their formative years and that fathers were not crucial to the development and well-being of the child.  


What is the Standard the Court Applies in Making the Final Determination?


The court uses the standard of best interest for the minor child. This is the overriding concern that the court will consider when making any determination related to the child.  


Can I Seek to Modify a Placement or Custody Arrangement After the Court Rules on the Matter?


After an agreement or order is entered through the court, you may seek to have it modified after two years. Suppose there is some endangerment to the child based on the current order. In that case, a parent can seek to have the agreement modified before two years pass.  


What Happens If My Child Does Not Want to Live with Their Other Parent?


The child's wishes can be considered if they are 14 years or older. While the court may consider the wishes of the minor child, the child does not get to dictate the parenting schedule or whether a parent can have time with them.  


Does the Amount of Time a Parent Spends with their Child Affect Child Support?


Yes, having more time with the child may reduce the child support contribution that a parent has. It is the responsibility of both parents to support the child, and the more time that the child is in the parent's possession, the more they will have been deemed to have supported the child. This may mean that the child support that would otherwise need to be contributed may be reduced or diminished.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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