When a divorce involves children, custody arrangements represent the most important (and often most-contested) aspect.
Custody and placement are two different things under Wisconsin law. Although the court often awards parents the same amount of placement and legal custody of a child (one parent has sole custody and sole placement, or both parents have joint custody and shared placement), they each have legal differences.
Child Custody Under Wisconsin Law
The authority to make major decisions regarding your child is called legal custody. Examples include decisions about medical care, education, religion and other life-changing circumstances. Custody does not necessarily correspond with your child’s living arrangements.
- Joint custody. With joint custody, you and your ex-spouse share legal custody of your child. This means both parents share equally in making important decisions about your child.
- Sole custody. If you are awarded sole custody of your child, you alone are responsible for making the major decisions in your child’s best interests.
- Joint custody with provisions. Alternatively, the court may award parents joint custody, but with the provision that one parent has decision-making authority over specific aspects of the child’s life.
Child Placement Under Wisconsin Law
Where and with whom your child lives is called placement—the actual physical place of the child. The law provides for children to have regularly occurring, meaningful placement with each parent, but that does not necessarily mean equal amounts of time.
- Primary physical placement. If your child lives with you most of the time, you have primary physical placement.
- Shared placement. The child lives with each parent at least 25 percent of the time; the amount of time with each parent does not need to be equal. For example, your child could live stay with you during the week, but stay with your ex-spouse during the weekends and school holidays.
- Split placement. If you have more than one child, sometimes it makes sense for you to have primary placement of some of the children and your ex-spouse to have primary placement of the other children.
Make sure you provide your Milwaukee divorce lawyer with all the information he or she needs to help you make an informed decision. Your attorney will explain the differences between custody and placement under Wisconsin law so that you can make a choice that’s best for your family.