Sep 11

How does Wisconsin define the terms custody and placement in an action for divorce?

When the issues in a Wisconsin divorce case include those concerning where the children will reside, it is important that parents understand the terms used when discussing decision making and time with a child and the fact that not all states use the same terms. Even if states use the same terms, their meaning may differ from one state to another. If you are inclined to research issues on line, you need to keep in mind that terms such as joint custody can have different meanings depending on the state the information is coming from.
Terms such as major decisions, legal custody, sole legal custody, joint legal custody, and physical placement are all defined in the Wisconsin statute sections that concern cases involving divorce and paternity.
In Wisconsin, legal custody means the right and responsibility to make major decisions concerning a child. Major decisions include, but are not limited to, decisions regarding authorization for non–emergency health care, choice of school and religion, consent to obtain a driver’s license, and consent to marry or enter military service before reaching the age of majority.
If a parent has sole legal custody it means that that parent has the sole right and responsibility to make major decisions for the child.
If the parents have joint legal custody, they share the right and responsibility to make major decisions. With joint legal custody, neither parent’s rights are superior unless the Judge orders or the parents agree that specific decisions are to be made only by one or the other parent.
In Wisconsin when referring to time with a child, the term used is periods of physical placement. Physical placement refers to a parent’s ability to have a child physically placed with that parent and the right and responsibility to make, during that time, routine daily decisions regarding the child’s care. Routine daily decisions have to be consistent with the major decisions made by the person having legal custody.
Whether a resolution is reached through the agreement of the parents or is ordered by the Judge, the final documents will include orders concerning custody and physical placement. It is very important to remember that in Wisconsin legal custody and physical placement are two separate concepts. Parents might have joint legal custody, but the child spends most of his or her time with one of the parents. Joint custody does not automatically mean equal time.