Parents often confuse the concepts of Wisconsin legal custody with physical placement. In Wisconsin, however, these two terms have very different meanings. “Legal custody” allows a parent to make major decisions for a child, such as heath care, school and religious decisions. An award of custody can be joint, sole, and impasse-breaking authority. In sole custody, only one parent has the authority to make the decisions. In joint custody, both parents have that authority. With impasse authority, both parents make decisions unless they disagree. At that point, one parent makes the call.

Joint custody is presumed in Wisconsin, and is granted in most cases. Sole custody or impasse authority usually occurs when one parent lacks the ability to make safe decisions. That could be due to mental illness, immaturity, or irresponsibility. These situations are extremely serious, regarding the child’s safety and development.

Wisconsin legal custody is different from physical placement. Placement is the time that a child actually lives with a parent. The majority of family court disputes revolve around placement. It is difficult for parents to accept that they will see their children less than before, or at less convenient times. Childcare, employment, work hours, and many other changes require a great deal of trust between parents. Parents worry that their bond with the children will weaken with limited placement. As a result, parents fight hard for as much time with the children as possible.

Parents understandably worry about how a split will affect their relationship with the children. Usually, a reasonable agreement can be found. However, since the issues are so important, it is best to consult with an experienced family lawyer. Every custody lawyer at Kowalski, Wilson & Vang, LLC has years of experience resolving difficult Wisconsin child custody matters efficiently and effectively in Madison and beyond.