When you file for a divorce in a Wisconsin court, it sparks numerous changes in your life, especially if you’re a parent. The last thing you want to have happen is to show up in court lacking knowledge of state laws or guidelines that will have an impact on your settlement. It’s particularly important to understand issues that are relevant to child custody, so that you can make informed decisions and protect your children’s best interests.
For instance, many people don’t realize that there are various types of custody. You may want to discuss each type during your proceedings. It’s a good idea to review child custody issues ahead of time, so that you know what to request in accordance with your and your children’s current and long-term needs.
Physical child custody refers to permanent residence
One of the issues you and your co-parent must resolve in order to settle your divorce is where your children are going to live after your divorce is finalized. The legal term the court uses is “physical custody.” If you and your spouse plan on living close to each other, you might decide to share physical custody of your children.
On the other hand, you may have reason to ask the court to grant sole physical custody to you, with your ex receiving visitation privileges. Then again, you might be the parent who has visitation, while your children live full-time with their other parent. The primary question the court will want to answer is which type of physical custody would be best for your children.
Legal child custody has to do with authority to make decisions
Another type of child custody you’ll want to be aware of before heading to court is “legal custody.” When parents share legal custody of their children in a divorce, it means they both have the authority to make decisions on behalf of their kids. Such decisions might include medical issues, education, faith or other important life matters.
If the court grants you sole legal custody, it means you do not have to seek your ex’s approval or agreement when making decisions on behalf of your children. If your ex has sole legal custody, it means you won’t necessarily get to inject your opinions when there’s an important decision to make.
Sole legal and physical custody
If you have reason to believe that your ex’s presence would place your children at risk, you might want to request sole physical and legal custody as part of your divorce proceedings. Perhaps restrictions would apply, such as supervised visitation. Legitimate reasons to request sole custody might include issues like substance abuse, child neglect or domestic violence.
Is a child custody order set in stone?
Once a Wisconsin family court judge issues a child custody order in your case, you and your ex are obligated to adhere to its terms, no matter what. However, the court understands that unexpected issues often arise in life, which may prompt your need to request modification of a court order.
For instance, if you must relocate because of your job, or your work schedule changes, you might ask the court to change its orders regarding location and time for custody exchanges. The important thing to remember is that, unless and until the court grants a request for modification, the original court order stands, and both parents must adhere to its terms.