Divorcing parents typically have to figure out what to do with their children when they split up. Parents have to decide on two types of custody: Legal custody and physical placement. Physical placement refers to where the children will reside and how they’ll spend time with each parent, but legal custody is an entirely different matter – and not all parents share it in the state of Wisconsin.
What is Legal Custody in Wisconsin?
Legal custody refers to a parent’s rights to make major decisions about his or her children. These major decisions can include things like:
- Religious upbringing
- Choice of school
- Educational decisions
- Non-emergency healthcare
- Consent to marry
- Whether or not to allow the child to get a driver’s license
- Consent to join the military
Naturally, daily decisions – like what the kids will have for dinner or where they’ll go for emergency medical care – are up to the parent who has them at the time. For the most part, parents can decide whether the kids can have playdates, play certain video games or even celebrate holidays in a certain way while the children are with them. Legal custody only refers to major decisions, and those hold over even when the children are not with the parent who has legal custody.
Sometimes parents share legal custody, but in some cases, only one parent gets it.
Joint Legal Custody vs. Sole Legal Custody
In joint legal custody, both parents have equal rights to make major decisions about their children under Wisconsin law. Typically, parents who share legal custody make big decisions together.
When only one parent has legal custody, though, he or she doesn’t have to consult the other parent (although it can make co-parenting easier). Only one parent has the legal right to make big decisions about the children.
In some cases, the courts can rule that one parent has the sole right to make some decisions, such as where the child will attend school, but not other decisions.
Usually, the law presumes joint legal custody unless there are reasons for a court to order sole custody.