Custody, Placement, and Visitation

Child Custody

In Wisconsin, “legal custody” does not refer to where the children will spend their time. Rather, the parent with legal custody is the parent who has the right to make certain important decisions for the child, such as whether to allow the child to enter the military or to marry, what religion the child will practice, and where the child will go to school. In Wisconsin there is a presumption that both parents will make these decisions together; this is called joint legal custody.

In practice, disputes over legal custody usually arise when the parents cannot reach an agreement concerning a legal custody issue. If a legal custody issue reaches the courts, judges have two options. Sometimes the judge will make the decision for the parties, basing the decision on the chid’s best interests. In other cases the judge will award one parent “impasse decision-making authority,” or the right to make the decision on a specified issue in the event of a disagreement.

Physical Placement (sometimes called Physical Custody)

Few decisions are as important in family law matters as where the children will live as they grow up, or what in Wisconsin is called periods of physical placement. The experienced attorneys at Wessel, Lehker & Fumelle will guide you through these emotionally challenging issues, help you understand your options and the likely outcomes, work reasonably with the other parent when appropriate and fight for you in court when necessary.

The touchstone for physical placement decisions is found at Wisconsin Statutes Section 767.41(5), where the legislature has specified the relevant factors. Of course, parents are always free to agree on their children’s living arrangements. But if the parents cannot agree, the court will make the decision “in the children’s best interests” by evaluating the specified factors. If you believe physical placement may be a disputed issue in your case, consider reading through Section 767.41(5). Even if physical placement is not disputed now, familiarize yourself with the list of factors so you will know what the courts will consider important if the issue arises in the future. For example, supporting the other parent’s relationship with your child is not only important for your child’s well-being, but is also a specific factor the court will consider if it is called upon to make the decision.

In addition to having many years of practical experience representing parents, the attorneys at Wessel, Lehker & Fumelle all have experience raising our own children. We will be your zealous advocate, but we also practice law with a focus on children. We believe that in almost every circumstance children benefit from both parents’ involvement. We keep informed about social science research on issues such as the interplay between physical placement arrangements and how children fare in later life.