In Wisconsin, child custody cases can often be complex and emotionally charged. Parents will often encounter disputes over how they will share custody of their children, including how they will make decisions about important issues, when children will live in each parent’s home, and how they will handle various childcare duties. In some cases, a parent may believe that they should have sole custody of their children rather than sharing custody with the other parent. It is important to understand when sole custody may be considered as a viable option by the courts. A parent who is planning to seek sole custody can work with an attorney to determine how to address these issues.

What Is Sole Custody?

Sole custody typically refers to a situation in which one parent has primary responsibility for the child. This is known as sole legal custody. The parent with sole custody will generally have the right to make all major decisions about the child’s upbringing without consulting with or obtaining consent from the other parent.

Most of the time, children will reside primarily with a parent who has sole legal custody, but they will still be able to see and spend time with the other parent on a regular, ongoing basis. However, sole physical custody may also be appropriate in some situations. In these cases, children will reside solely with one parent, and they may not see or have contact with the other parent. These types of cases are rare, and Wisconsin courts usually prefer for both parents to be involved in raising their children. When children can spend time with each parent, they can build strong, lasting relationships, and parents can make sure their children’s needs are being met.

The Best Interests of the Child

In Wisconsin law, decisions regarding child custody are always based on what is in the best interests of the child. The courts may look at various factors to determine whether granting sole custody would serve those best interests.

Here are some of the key factors that Wisconsin courts consider:

  • The wishes of each parent: Courts listen to and evaluate the parents’ desires about whether custody should be shared or whether one parent should have sole custody.

  • The relationship between each parent and their children: The strength and quality of parent/child bonds may be evaluated by the court. Decisions about custody should not disrupt these bonds and harm the relationships between either parent and their children.

  • The ability of each parent to meet their children’s needs: The court may consider how well each parent can provide children with emotional support, educational guidance, and medical care, while also addressing children’s psychological well-being and providing for any special needs.

  • The child’s adjustment: The court will look at how a change in custody arrangements may impact factors like home stability, school environment, and community ties.

  • The mental and physical health of each parent: The court will evaluate the well-being of both parents and their ability to provide a safe, healthy environment for their children.

  • History of domestic violence or abuse: When a parent has been accused of engaging in abuse against their spouse, their child, or another family member, the court will take this issue into serious consideration. Protecting the safety and welfare of children is the top priority in these situations.

Since Wisconsin courts typically prefer shared custody arrangements, a consideration of the factors above would need to show that there is a reason why it would be in the best interests of the children for one parent to have sole custody. Sole legal custody may be granted if there is a compelling reason why parents would be unable to work together to make child-related decisions. Sole physical custody may be appropriate if children could be at risk of harm when in the care of a parent due to issues like domestic violence, substance abuse, or mental health concerns.