A Wisconsin guardianship grants legal rights to a non-parent of a child. It allows the non-parent to take certain actions, such as authorizing medical treatment, applying for social services, school enrollment, etc., and to obtain “care and custody” of the child. The guardian does not necessarily take the place of the parent, and the parent’s rights are not removed or terminated. Wisconsin guardianships are usually requested when a parent is missing or unable/unwilling to care for a child. The guardianship allows a non-parent (the guardian) to arrange for the child’s needs until the parent becomes able to do so.
Because parents have a fundamental right to care of their children, guardianships are not easily granted. The parent generally must be found unfit. This is a rather high level of proof.
A person requests a Wisconsin guardianship by filing a petition. A hearing follows shortly after. In my experience, there are two main issues that create problems for potential guardians: failure to complete the proper documents, and failure to prepare evidence at the hearing. The potential guardian may have very good reasons for protecting the child. But if the evidence is not entered properly, the judge will be reluctant to order the guardianship. Because the parent’s right to the child is so strong, judges are often rather strict when applying evidence rules.
Another option is for a parent to voluntarily provide a relative with authority to care for the child for a period of one year. Wisconsin law allows for such arrangements, and they are best used when the various parties are cooperative.
Because the safety and well-being of a child is at stake, potential guardians should always retain an experienced lawyer to represent them. At the same time, a parent facing a petition for guardianship of his/her child should also obtain an attorney to ensure their rights are properly respected. I have experience representing parents and non-parents in guardianship matters, and I would be happy to speak to you.