What custody/placement rights do grandparents have in Wisconsin?
When parents of minor children divorce, the impact often reaches beyond the immediate family. In-laws who once seemed as close as blood relatives may become distant from you. Even though you and your ex may be severing your connections with each other’s family members, the same may not apply to your children and their family relationships. This can be especially true when it comes to the grandparent/grandchild relationship. If you are going through a divorce with children, you will want to know: What custody/placement rights do grandparents have in Wisconsin?
The relationship your kids have with their grandparents can be one of the most important in their lives. In the best of circumstances, a grandparent can be an active part of their grandchild’s life and a source of support for their parents. However, a parent may not always get along with their mother or father-in-law. When parents divorce, the former spouse/grandparent relationship can become even more strained. When grandparents are challenging to get along with, a former son or daughter-in-law may be tempted to limit their interactions. By extension, this may lead to grandparents and grandchildren spending less time together. While restricting a grandparent’s role in their grandchildren’s lives may serve some purposes, it may also be hard on the kids.
Wisconsin Grandparent Visitation
In Wisconsin, the law supports parents being able to make decisions about how to raise their children. This may involve parents limiting their children's contact with certain family members. However, the law also recognizes that children may have other meaningful and beneficial relationships with adults who are not their parents.
Wisconsin law provides that “a grandparent, great-grandparent, stepparent or person who has maintained a relationship similar to a parent-child relationship with [a] child” can petition the court for reasonable visitation rights. The petitioning party must provide the parents with notice of a hearing on the matter. After considering the evidence, the court can decide if visitation with the petitioning party is in the best interest of the child or children.
Being a grandparent does not automatically mean that a person will get visitation with their grandchild. The court will evaluate numerous factors before reaching its decision. Whenever possible, the court will consider the child’s wishes in making a determination regarding this type of visitation. Further, the court will evaluate the grandparent's efforts to maintain a relationship with their grandchild. A grandparent who played a significant role in a child's life at one time but has not had recent contact may not have as compelling an argument for visitation as one who has an ongoing relationship. Grandparents must also prove by clear and convincing evidence that a fit parent’s decision regarding visitation is not in the child’s best interest.
While Wisconsin law supports parental decision-making regarding visitation, it also recognizes that it may be in a child’s best interest to maintain a relationship with their grandparent. If the grandparent has been a significant part of a child’s life, and there is no evidence that seeing them will harm the child, the grandparent may have a compelling argument for visitation.
Consider the Reasons for or Against Visitation
After your divorce case is over, it may take time to assess how you feel about your ex’s parents and their role in your children’s lives. If you have concerns, it may be best to carefully consider the source of your reservations before taking action. For instance, if your ex’s parents are making disparaging remarks about you in the presence of your children, it may be reasonable to limit contact. However, if restricting visits has more to do with you wanting space from your ex and everyone associated with them, you may need to review how your choice is impacting your kids.
If you and your ex are having conflict over how to manage grandparent visitation issues, you should make an appointment to consult with Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law. Ms. Youso has extensive experience helping clients understand their options before, during, and after divorce and can assist you in determining your next steps. Contact us today and let us take a “first look” at your situation.