Wisconsin grandparent visitation

Wisconsin grandparent visitation

The standard for Wisconsin grandparent visitation has recently been clarified in the case of Paternity of E.M.B. (available at http://www.wisbar.org/res/capp/2011/2009ap000488.htm).  The Court of Appeals ruled that grandparents must overcome the parent’s Constitutional right to care for a child.  The child’s parent is presumed competent to know what is best for her child.  The parent’s decision whether to allow contact between the child and grandparents is granted “special weight.”  

In cases of married or divorced families, the grandparents must show a “triggering event” allowing the state (in the form of the family court) a reason to become involved in the family’s life.   However, Paternity of E.B. ruled that different standards apply to paternal grandparents when the parents of the child never married.   A “triggering event”  is unnecessary in these circumstances.   In this situation, it can be easier for grandparents to establish or maintain a relationship with their grandchild.    

The Wisconsin grandparent visitation law is unclear about the extent of visitation available.  There is no minimum or maximum time limit.  Therefore, although limited visitation is generally granted, the actual law does not prevent grandparents from receiving substantial time with their grandchildren.  In Paternity of E.B., for example, the grandparents’ visitation ranged from 35% to 14% of the total available time.

The outcome of a Wisconsin grandparent visitation request depends on the length and depth of the relationship.    Child development experts may testify to explain the bond (as they were in Paternity of E.B.), as well as negative effects of ending that bond.

Regardless of the side you are on, an experienced family lawyer is necessary to properly frame the argument and introduce the correct evidence.    I have worked with several grandparents to maintain their contact with grandchildren.  I encourage you to contact me for assistance.

Published by David Kowalski

Attorney David Kowalski is the founding owner of Kowalski, Wilson & Vang, LLC, handling all family law cases from divorce, paternity, child custody, termination of parental rights, restraining orders, and guardianships.

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