A divorce is rarely an easy process but it tends to become even more difficult and complex when children are involved. At the start of a divorce, or custody battle, one of the most common things our office hears from clients is that the child’s other parent is threatening to get full placement and never let them see the child again. If this sounds like a situation that you are, you can pause here to let out a sigh of relief. It is very unlikely a court would deny a parent placement, unless there have been serious acts of domestic violence or child abuse within the marriage.
In Wisconsin, the court system starts with a few presumptions when it comes to custody and placement of a child or children:
- It is almost always better to have both parents involved with the child.
- The court expects both parents to support the child’s relationship with the other, and to work together to cooperatively co-parent even after the divorce.
- The court should maximize placement with both parents. While this doesn’t always mean that the court will start with a 50/50 placement division, it does instruct that both parties should be given meaningful periods of placement.
While the above mentioned are general rules, most situations to call for clarification and working out details based on each individual circumstances.
First, it is almost impossible for one parent to prevent the other parent from ever having any involvement with their child. Common questions are what if they are a bad parent, have a criminal record, or didn’t want to be part of their child’s life before? The answer to that question is that even so, in most cases, both parents will still remain a part of their child’s life. This isn’t to say that someone who previously had no placement at all will go to fifty percent, but it is likely that some placement will be established on a temporary basis, and then there will be ongoing discussions on the future.
If you and the other parent have conflict in one of these or other areas, you can expect that the court will want you to work on these issues. In some cases this could be co-parenting class, in other cases, there may be rules about how the parties communicate with one another or transition the children to the other parent for placement. At the end of the day, attempting to maintain a civil and respectful relationship with the other parent will not only make your life easier, but will give you a stronger position as you go through the court process.
Lastly, the State of Wisconsin likes to start in the middle and figure out where to go from there. This does not necessarily mean that a Temporary Order will grant 50-50 placement at the start. In most cases when custody and placement has not already been established, there is an unofficial assumption that shared placement would be a good place to start, however that could be impractical if the parties are residing in different cities, if a work or school schedule would prevent someone from exercising their placement or many other factors. An attorney will work with both the opposing party as well as the court to establish something that works on both a temporary basis and, moving forward, a more permanent schedule.
One of the most difficult parts of custody and placement issues is that there can be some frustration or anger between the two parties. While that is understandable, on some cases even justified, it is important to be able to move forward and put the best interest of the child first. Often times an attorney can help with this process to help communications with both sides, as well as constructing a legal agreement that protects everyone’s interest.