Wisconsin Child Custody Laws

Become Familiar with Child Custody Laws in Wisconsin Before You Head to Court

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In Wisconsin, child custody laws are determined based on the best interests of the child standard. Find out what this means and what you need to know before filing for child custody or considering divorce in the state of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Child Custody Laws

The state of Wisconsin uses several criteria to determine child custody. In Wisconsin, when parents are married and have children, the are both considered to have equal rights to the custody of their children in event that they later divorce. Primarily, a Wisconsin court will determine custody based on the best interests of the child. This means that the court will put the child's needs, wants, and interests ahead of the parents' wishes or convenience. Parents who wish to file for child custody in Wisconsin should first become familiar with the custody statutes in this state. Arming yourself with knowledge in this way will help you best advocate for yourself and your children.

The Best Interests of Child

In determining the best interests of the child, a court in Wisconsin will consider the following factors:

  • Each parent's wishes
  • The child's relationship with his/her parents, siblings and extended family members
  • The child's comfort in his/her home, school and community
  • The mental and physical health of all involved parties

Joint Custody in Wisconsin

A Wisconsin court will award joint custody in cases where parents can cooperate in performing their responsibilities toward their children. Parents should therefore make every attempt to work together and demonstrate their willingness to collaborate with one another for the sake of the children. Any parent who refuses to work with his or her ex may risk losing their good standing with the court, which could negatively impact their case. 

Multiple Children and Wisconsin Child Custody Laws

In Wisconsin, if parents have multiple children, the state reserves the right to split the children between the parents based on age and the best interests of each child. However, the court also assumes that a child's best interests will be to be in the same home as their siblings. Therefore, it is generally more rare for the court to split the children, with one or two kids going to each parent.

Visitation Rights and Child Custody in Wisconsin

If a Wisconsin court awards physical child custody to one parent, the other parent has the right to request visitation. In the event that you are concerned for your child's safety and wish to contest visitation, you can ask the court to deny visitation rights to your ex. While courts in Wisconsin generally prefer to support the child's ongoing relationship with both parents, the courts have also denied visitation in the following circumstances:

  • When the non-custodial parent has demonstrated a past hisotry of physically and/or emotionally absuing the children in question (or other children)
  • When the non-custodial parents suffers from a severe mental illness that could hinder his or her ability to care for the child or potentially may cause lasting damage to the child

In addition, a Wisconsin court will not deny visitation rights to an incarcerated parent or a parent who has been incarcerated in the past.

For more information about child custody in Wisconsin, speak with a qualified attorney in Wisconsin or refer to the Wisconsin Domestic Relations statute.