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How is child custody determined?

Child custody can be one of the most contentious aspects of divorce, and parents who are preparing for divorce are often concerned about how child custody decisions will be made. However, the answer can depend on a family's unique situation.

As often as possible, parents are encouraged to work together to make custody decisions. However, when that is not possible or not successful, a Wisconsin court may determine the most appropriate custody arrangement for the situation.

Parenting plans

As parents, you and your spouse probably know better than anyone what your child's needs are. This is why it is often best for parents to work together to create a mutually agreeable parenting plan, and then submit that plan to the court for approval. Typically, the court will approve any reasonable plan that parents can agree upon.

The parenting plan should address the details of legal custody and physical placement. Legal custody refers to the right to make major decisions about your child's upbringing, and physical placement refers to the time your child is in each parent's care.

Some of the other details the parenting plan should address, include:

  • Where each parent lives and works
  • Who will provide child care when a parent cannot
  • What school the child will attend
  • How the holidays will be divided
  • How the child will spend summers
  • How parental disagreements about child rearing will be resolved

Best interests

If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, you must try mediation before asking the court to decide what custody arrangement should be awarded. However, when a court must decide, it will ultimately attempt to select the custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child.

When determining a child's best interests, the court can consider any relevant factors, such as:

  • The wishes of the parents and the child
  • The child's relationship with immediate family members
  • The child's developmental and educational needs
  • Any history of a parent's alcohol or drug abuse
  • The child's need for stability
  • The mental or physical health of each parent and anyone who may live with the parent

Every family has a unique situation, and every child has unique needs. Having a full understanding of how child custody is determined can help you better advocate for a plan that suits your family's situation and meets your child's needs.

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515 Belknap Street
Superior, WI 54880

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