How does child custody work in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin families facing divorce likely have concerns about child custody. Getting answers to these questions can provide peace of mind during a difficult time.

Review the factors that influence custody and visitation decisions after Wisconsin divorce.

The custody process

The state urges divorcing parents to work together so that both can maintain a loving, healthy relationship with their children. Parents who end their marriage will first attempt to negotiate a fair custody schedule outside of court, often with the help of a neutral professional mediator. If this process does not result in a custody-sharing agreement, the court will step in to decide.

Factors in deciding custody

In cases where the family court judge must decide custody, he or she may consider:

  • Whether either parent has a history of domestic violence, neglect or untreated substance abuse
  • The willingness of each parent to facilitate a relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The family’s current child care arrangements
  • The child’s current adjustment to school, home and community
  • The physical and mental health of the child and both parents
  • The wishes of the parents in regards to custody
  • The child’s wishes, which he or she may express independently or through a court-appointed representative depending on age
  • The child’s existing relationship with each parent, siblings, grandparents and other extended family members

While evidence supports the benefits of sharing custody for the child’s best interests, a 50/50 split does not work for every family. Wisconsin courts provide parents the ability to find common ground before enforcing a legally binding parenting schedule.