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Determining child custody and placement in Wisconsin

On Behalf of | Aug 2, 2023 | Family Law

If you are separating from your child’s other parent, you must determine where the child will live, how to share time with your child, and how decisions will be made regarding the child. When determining custody and placement of a child, it is important to prioritize the child’s best interests.

Determining custody and placement of the child

In Wisconsin, the word “custody” essentially refers to legal custody, or the parent’s legal authority to make major decisions about several important issues, including the child’s education, medical care, religion.

Physical placement refers to the time periods during which the child will be in the care of one parent. There are generally three options for placement in Wisconsin:

  • Primary placement: Child primarily resides with one parent.
  • Shared placement: Child spends an equal amount of time living with each parent and spends at least 25 percent of nights with each parent annually.
  • Split placement: For parents with multiple children, one or more children will primarily reside with one child, while the remaining child or children will primarily reside with the other parent.

The court will order the parties to attend mediation to attempt to work out their custody and placement issues. However, if this does not work, the court will step in and come up with a plan that serves the child’s best interests.

What are the best interests of your child?

The Wisconsin courts consider specific factors when determining custody and physical placement. Under Wisconsin law, courts may consider the following factors relating to the best interests of the child:

  • Each parent’s past role in the child’s life (time spent with the child in the past).
  • Age, health, and wishes of each parent.
  • Age, health, and needs of child.
  • Wishes of the child (may be articulated by a guardian ad litem).
  • Child’s environment (home, school, etc.) and relationships with others (parents, siblings, etc.).
  • Criminal history, history of domestic violence, and/or parental substance abuse issues.

Once the judge has signed the child custody order, both parents are legally obligated to adhere to the order. Parents who want to change the terms of the order may file for a modification.