Parents may need to address issues related to child custody in a variety of situations, although this is most often a factor in divorce cases. Most of the time, parents will be able to share custody of children. Joint legal custody will allow both parents to be involved in decisions about how their children should be raised. Shared physical custody (known as physical placement in Wisconsin) will ensure that children will be able to spend reasonable amounts of time with both parents. However, there may be some situations where joint legal custody may not be appropriate, and if there are potential risks to children’s safety and well-being, certain types of restrictions regarding physical placement may be put in place.
Joint Legal Custody vs. Sole Legal Custody
In Wisconsin, family courts presume that it is in children’s best interests for parents to share joint legal custody. This will ensure that parents can cooperate to raise their children and work together to make decisions about important issues such as where children will go to school, which doctors will provide medical care, and the religion that children will be raised in. However, there may be some situations where a court may determine that it would be in children’s best interests for one parent to have sole legal custody. These include cases where a parent is incapable of performing parental responsibilities, such as when they have a serious illness or disability, as well as situations where a parent is not interested in maintaining an active and continuing role in raising their children.
Sole custody may also be granted to one parent if parents will be unable to cooperate with each other as they raise their children. When considering whether this is the case, a court will look at whether there is any evidence that a parent has engaged in domestic violence, including abuse of a spouse or a child. If a parent has previously been arrested for domestic violence or convicted of domestic battery, this may lead a court to award sole legal custody to the other parent.
Restrictions on Physical Placement
Even if one parent is awarded sole legal custody, the other parent will generally have the right to spend reasonable amounts of time with their children. However, when determining how physical custody will be handled, courts will consider a variety of factors, including any issues that may put children’s safety and well-being at risk. These include whether a parent, their romantic partner, or anyone else who lives in their home has a history of drug or alcohol abuse or has previously engaged in abuse against children or other family or household members.
If the court believes it is appropriate, it may allow a parent who presents a potential risk to children to have physical custody, but it may put restrictions in place. These restrictions may include:
Requiring periods of physical placement to be supervised by a third party, with the parent being responsible for paying any costs or fees related to this supervision
Prohibiting children from staying overnight with a parent
Requiring a parent to attend treatment to prevent future instances of domestic abuse
Restricting a parent from being under the influence of alcohol or drugs while in possession of their children
Requiring parents to exchange children in public locations or in the presence of a third party
Requiring a parent to post a monetary bond to ensure that they will protect children’s safety and return them to the other parent once periods of physical placement are complete
Contact Our Milwaukee County Child Custody Lawyers
If you are concerned about your children’s safety during your divorce or family law case, Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP can advise you of your legal options, and we will fight to protect your children’s best interests. We will help you determine whether you may be able to request sole legal custody or restrictions on physical custody. To set up a free consultation, contact our Milwaukee child custody attorneys at 414-271-1440.