Grandparent, Step-Parent, and Other Third Party Visitation

In Wisconsin, a child’s legal parents (usually the biological or adoptive parents) have far-reaching rights to care for their child as they see fit. These broad rights include the right to determine whether and under what circumstances the child will spend time with others: grandparents, step-parents, aunts, uncles, family friends.

Wisconsin law does provide limited exceptions to the parents’ right to determine who their child associates with; under some circumstances a non-parent can petition the court to grant visitation with a child. The primary vehicle for visitation is provided in Wis. Stats. Sec. 767.43. While the statutory language may appear relatively straightforward, subsequent cases have interpreted and added to the standards set forth in the statute. People seeking visitation who do not meet the statutory criteria under Sec. 767.43 still may have a chance under the common law, primarily the Wisconsin Supreme Court case In re the Custody of H.S.H.-K.

It can be a difficult reality to accept: Even if you have been significantly involved in a child’s life for many years, you may have no recourse if the child’s parents decide to terminate your contact with the child. Often a non-parent’s best option is to stay on good terms with the parents, even if that means limited time with the children or seeing the children under less than ideal circumstances.

This is a complex and intricate area of family law, one that requires considerable background knowledge and experience. The attorneys at Wessel, Lehker & Fumelle have experience (in some cases personal experience) on both ends of the visitation spectrum. We have successfully advocated for third parties seeking visitation, and for parents opposing visitation. We encourage you to contact us for a free consultation to help you determine your rights and options.

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