Your children may be one of the most contentious issues in your divorce. However, the courts cannot simply decide child custody or support however they want. Wisconsin parents have certain rights when the courts are deciding custody and child support issues, and Wisconsin laws give guidance to the courts in these areas.
Types of Custody
Child custody can be divided into legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions about the child’s life, including his school, religious upbringing and health care provider. When legal custody is shared, both parents have the right to participate in major decisions about the child. Physical custody refers to the day-to-day care of your child and with whom he physically spends time.
Courts can award joint legal custody if both parents agree to it; even if one parent doesn’t agree, the other can still request joint legal custody. Wisconsin makes mediation services available to parents to help them reach a custody agreement. However, even if the parents can’t reach an agreement, the court may award joint legal custody if it decides both parents can perform their parental duties and nothing will substantially interfere with their ability to exercise joint legal custody. Parents are generally allowed to access a child’s important records even if the court does not award joint legal custody.
Wisconsin law creates a presumption that a child should have the ability to physically spend time with both parents. There is an exception to this if the court finds, after a hearing, that the child’s physical, mental or emotional health would be in danger if the child spent time with a particular parent. Even if the court awards physical custody to both parents, it may not be equal. Shared physical custody simply means that each parent gets some parenting time with the child. Under Wisconsin law, the court must establish a placement schedule that maximizes the child’s time with each parent. To do this, the court considers various factors, including the wishes of the child and his parents, the relationship of the child with other family members and the child’s age and development.
Custody and child support are different issues; a parent has the right to see his child according to the custody arrangement even if he is late paying his child support. The custodial parent cannot deny the other parent access to the child due to late child support payments. In Wisconsin, a parent has the right to file motions to modify child support or custody arrangements if he can establish there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the most recent order was issued.