Custody Arrangements in Wisconsin

Custody Arrangements in Wisconsin

When parents consider custody arrangements, they typically think about where their children will be living. However, this is called physical placement, and it is only part of the custody arrangement that will be finalized in a divorce or custody dispute.


Physical placement

Physical placement refers to where the children stay on any given day. The parent with physical placement may make routine childcare decisions while the children are in that parent’s care.

Wisconsin courts typically award both parents some type of physical placement. There are three primary physical placement arrangements:

  • Primary placement: In this situation, the parent with primary placement has the children overnight for at least 75 percent of the year, or 274 overnights.
  • Shared placement: If a parent has the children for at least 25 percent, or 92 overnights, of the year, this is a shared placement arrangement.
  • Split custody: Although many judges are hesitant to award split custody, it does happen. In a split custody arrangement, the children live with different parents. However, in most cases, the children are together each weekend and during several weeks in the summer.

Wisconsin courts will carefully examine the facts of the case to determine which arrangement may be best.


Legal custody in Wisconsin

Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make decisions for the children on matters such as their education, religious upbringing, and medical care.

There are three types of legal custody in Wisconsin: sole legal custody, joint legal custody, and a hybrid of sole and joint legal custody.

When sole legal custody is awarded to a parent, that parent has total decision-making power for the children. The parent with sole legal custody does not have to seek input from the other parent on any decision. Sole legal custody is typically awarded in three situations:

  • Both parents agree to it;
  • The parties do not agree on sole legal custody, but one parent is not able to be fully responsible for the children or joint legal custody is not possible; or
  • The parties will not be able to work together to make decisions for the children.

In a joint legal custody arrangement, both parents have the right to make decisions for the children. Under Wisconsin law, there is a presumption that joint legal custody is best for the children.

Finally, in the joint legal custody/sole legal custody hybrid, both parents have decision-making power, but one parent will have the final word in each decision if the parties cannot agree on the matter.

In any question involving legal custody or physical placement, the courts will determine if the arrangement is in the best interests of the children. This factor is paramount in all family court decisions.

If you are going through a divorce in Wisconsin, try to work with your spouse—as difficult as that may sound—to create a physical placement and legal custody plan that works for your family. Your children will be impacted for many years to come, well into adulthood, by the decisions you make during this painful time.

Our Wisconsin custody attorneys are highly experienced in child custody matters

At Bandle & Zaeske, our family law attorneys work with you to create legal custody and physical placement plans that best works for you and your family. We help clients in Washington County, Ozaukee County, and Waukesha County. To schedule a free consultation, call (414) 359-1424 or contact us online.


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