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What Does “Best Interest of the Child” Mean in Wisconsin?

What Does Best Interest of the Child Mean - Carlos Gamino

By Carlos Gamino

When you’re talking about child custody in Wisconsin, you’ll hear the term best interest of the child. Typically, when the courts have to decide who gets child custody, that’s the judge’s primary concern – what’s best for the child or children involved.

Here’s what the phrase means.

What Does “Best Interest of the Child” Mean?

Most divorcing parents in Wisconsin are able to reach child custody agreements on their own. Together, they decide things like legal custody and physical placement. When two parents agree, the judge is likely to sign off on the agreement – as long as it’s fair to everyone involved and has the child’s best interests at heart. However, there are some cases in which parents are unable to agree on child custody; that’s when the courts have to step in and determine what’s in the child’s best interests.

When the courts are looking at what’s best for the child, the judge will consider things like:

  • The child’s age
  • The child’s health
  • The connections between each parent and the child
  • The child’s ties to home, community and school
  • Whether there’s a history of family violence
  • Whether each parent is capable of caring for the child emotionally, physically and emotionally

Sometimes the courts decide to give both parents legal and physical custody of the child; in other cases, those types of custody are split up. Legal custody is a parent’s right to make important decisions about a child’s upbringing, medical care (non-emergency), religion and education. The term physical placement refers to how much time the child spends in each parent’s care.

Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Child Custody and Your Child’s Best Interests?

If you’re a divorcing parent, you may need to talk to an attorney about child custody and how the courts determine the best interest of the child. We can help – call us at 414-383-6700 for a free consultation today.

Carlos Gamino

By |2021-07-17T13:34:49-05:00November 27th, 2019|Family Law|Comments Off on What Does “Best Interest of the Child” Mean in Wisconsin?

Does My Child Need a Guardian ad Litem

Does My Child Need a Guardian ad Litem - Wisconsin Family Lawyers

A guardian ad litem is a person who has been appointed by the court to watch out for a child’s rights. In many cases, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem during divorce to preserve the minor’s rights.

Does My Child Need a Guardian ad Litem?

While the courts are responsible for appointing a guardian ad litem, either parent can request one. If you feel that your child’s rights are at risk, you can ask the judge in your case to appoint a GAL.

The courts will appoint a GAL, with or without a parental request, if:

  • The parents cannot agree on custody or placement, even after mediation (in some cases, the courts may waive the mediation requirement and skip straight to appointing a GAL)
  • The courts are concerned for the child’s welfare
  • Any time the child’s best interests are at risk

If you would like to request a guardian ad litem, you need to understand that:

  • The GAL is not the child’s lawyer. Instead, he or she is responsible for acting in the child’s best interests – and those aren’t always the same as what the child wants.
  • The GAL may negotiate settlements, hire experts and interview witnesses when he or she is representing the child’s best interests.
  • The GAL can investigate abuse allegations and allegations of violence between the parents.
  • In most cases, the GAL will meet with each parent and the child. Usually, parent meetings take place in the GAL’s office; child meetings could take place in another location.
  • The judge decides who pays the GAL’s fees.

A guardian ad litem is an attorney, and he or she only investigates facts that are related to your case. A lot of the information that he or she gathers is gained through interviews and records (such as medical records and school records).

Once the GAL has completed an investigation, he or she will present the judge with the findings. If the parents cannot agree with what the GAL recommends, a judge will have to decide.

By |2021-07-31T14:34:32-05:00November 20th, 2019|Family Law|Comments Off on Does My Child Need a Guardian ad Litem

Who Looks Out for a Child’s Best Interests

Who Looks Out for a Child's Best Interests - Milwaukee Divorce Lawyers

During your divorce, you and your ex are both looking out for your kids’ best interests. However, sometimes the court finds it necessary to appoint someone else—someone who’s paid to advocate for the children’s best interests when it comes to guardianship or protective placement.

In Wisconsin, we call this person a guardian ad litem.

Guardian ad Litem Criteria in Wisconsin

The guardian ad litem will be a lawyer appointed by the court to look out for a child. The lawyer can’t be a party to the dispute, nor can he or she be related to or representative of either party.

How Guardians ad Litem Look Out for Wisconsin Kids

The guardian ad litem, commonly referred to as a GAL, has one main duty: to represent the child’s best interests. The GAL isn’t the child’s lawyer, but the court appoints him or her to speak up about what will best serve the child or children involved.

The guardian ad litem has several responsibilities, including:

  • Interviewing the child and the proposed guardian
  • Determining whether there has been abuse or violence between parents
  • Making recommendations to the court about whether the proposed guardian is fit to fill the role
  • Requesting medical or psychological evaluations (or other evaluations)
  • Informing the court about the child’s objections and attending all court proceedings
  • Presenting evidence that proves what’s in the child’s best interests

The GAL must consider what the child and both parents want (although those wishes may not be in the child’s best interests), whether the child is safe in either environment, and the level of connection and interaction between each parent and the child. He or she will also consider several other factors that affect the child’s well-being.

Should Your Kids Have a Guardian ad Litem During Your Divorce?

Some families request a guardian ad litem; in those cases, a family court judge or commissioner makes the appointment. If you’re going through a divorce, your lawyer will be able to ask on your behalf.

It’s not always necessary to have a GAL participate in your divorce. If you’re not sure, ask your Milwaukee divorce lawyer. He or she will be able to tell you whether it might be a good idea to make that type of request.

By |2021-07-31T17:01:45-05:00November 19th, 2019|Family Law|Comments Off on Who Looks Out for a Child’s Best Interests

Telling Children About Divorce – 5 Tips from the Pros

Telling Children About Divorce - 5 Tips from the Pros - Milwaukee Divorce Attorneys

Telling children about divorce is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, according to many parents who have been through it. As Milwaukee divorce attorneys, we see hundreds of concerned parents each year, and we’re often asked, “How do I tell my kids?”

Now that that’s out of the way, we wanted to know what child psychologists, psychiatrists, and other professionals had to say that could make things easier when you’re telling children about divorce – and here’s what we found.

5 Tips for Telling the Kids

1. Tell them together. You may not want to spend much time with your soon-to-be ex, but most experts agree that it’s best if you two present a united front when you break the news. Kids need to be reassured that you both still love them and that you’ll still be there for them – and that’s tough to convey when they aren’t face-to-face with both of you.

2. Be honest. While you may think you’re minimizing your kids’ discomfort by giving reassuring answers like “Everything will be fine,” they need more than that from you. They’ll ask you tough questions, and according to renowned psychiatrist Dr. Kevin Arnold, the director of the Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy of Greater Columbus, you need to answer them honestly and age-appropriately.

“Nothing makes divorce better for children… they need to know the details and to receive answers to questions. Parents do best when they reduce the confusion by being truthful,” says Arnold.

3. Take responsibility. Avoid blaming your ex, even though it’s really difficult to do in the early stages of divorce. If you both accept responsibility for what went wrong, it’s easier to present that united front to your kids – and it’s easier to work your way through the entire divorce.

4. Don’t assume you know how your kids will feel. Some kids are relieved; others are shattered. Play things by ear. Remember, after you and your ex have tackled the difficulties of telling children about divorce, their feelings and opinions may change.

5. Be careful about your timing. If you’re merely considering divorce, don’t mention it to your kids. Wait until you’re certain before telling children about divorce – that will cause a roller coaster of emotions that may not even be necessary.

If you and your soon-to-be ex are having a hard time telling children about divorce, or if your kids are having a difficult time coping, ask your Milwaukee divorce lawyer if he or she can recommend a counselor or therapist who can help. Sometimes a little outside perspective can make a world of difference.

By |2021-08-07T17:13:24-05:00November 17th, 2019|Family Law|Comments Off on Telling Children About Divorce – 5 Tips from the Pros

Wisconsin Best Interest of the Child Factors

Wisconsin Best Interest of the Child Factors - Carlos Gamino

By Attorney Carlos Gamino

When you’re divorcing your spouse, you’ll hear the term “best interest of the child.” That’s the standard that judges in Wisconsin use to determine what type of custody arrangement is right for your family. Naturally, you and your spouse are free to reach your own agreement on placement (where the children will live and what schedule you’ll follow for visitation), but the judge will still have to make sure it meets your children’s best interests.

Best interest factors

Wisconsin’s best interest of the child factors include things like:

  • The child’s wishes, if the child is old enough to express a reasonable preference
  • The mental and physical health of both parents
  • A child’s special needs, as well as how each parent can accommodate those needs
  • Religious and cultural considerations
  • The need for maintaining a stable home environment (and continuing one, if the child has resided in the same place)
  • Other children whose custody is relevant, such as step-brothers and step-sisters, adoptive kids or other family members
  • Support and the opportunity for interaction with each parent’s extended family (such as grandparents)
  • Relationships the children have with other household members
  • The children’s adjustment to school and community
  • Each child’s age and gender
  • Whether there is domestic violence in the home, or whether a parent uses excessive discipline or emotionally abuses others (including, but not only, the child)
  • Evidence of any type of abuse, ranging from drug or alcohol abuse to child or sexual abuse

The judge in your case will look at all these factors in determining whether your agreement is best for your children. If the agreement you and your spouse reach doesn’t fit what your children need, the judge can change it and make a custody order that you don’t agree with – so it’s best to keep all these factors in mind (and to be honest with yourselves) when you work together to reach an agreement.

Do You Need Legal Advice on Wisconsin’s Best Interest of the Child Factors?

If you need legal help during your divorce – not just with custody, but with anything else – we’re here. You can call us at 414-383-6700 to talk about your situation and get case-specific legal advice in a free divorce consultation.

Attorney Carlos Gamino

By |2021-08-08T13:13:43-05:00November 16th, 2019|Family Law|Comments Off on Wisconsin Best Interest of the Child Factors

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