How Courts Treat Custodial Interference in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin custodial interference is a crime punishable by steep fines or even jail time.  After your divorce judgment establishes custody and visitation rights, it is illegal for one parent to disrupt the custody rights of the other parent by denying visitation, limiting contact, infringing on custodial time, or generally working to entice the child away from contact with the other parent.

What is Considered Interference?

Wisconsin Statute 948.31[1] defines interference with custody, either by a parent or a third party: “Whoever causes a child to leave, takes away or withholds a child for more than 12 hours from the child's parent(s) is guilty of a Class I felony.”

Here are the most common examples of custodial interference:

  • Physically stopping a child from seeing the other parent
  • Not allowing a child to communicate with the other parent
  • Denying visitation because the other parent is behind on child support
  • Moving the child to another state without permission
  • Deliberately not dropping a child off on a visitation day
  • One parent influencing their child not to see the other parent

Custody is almost always a fiercely argued and emotionally charged issue in WI divorces, but the courts ruling must be respected by both parents.

If you or your ex-spouse deliberately do something to disrupt or change the parenting schedule agreed upon in your divorce you are interfering with the custodial rights of the other parent, the other party will have grounds to take legal action.

What Happens to a Spouse Who Tries to Break a Child Custody Agreement?

The visitation and custody guidelines set during your divorce judgment are not guidelines but mandated times. Though we understand that in divorce emotions tend to run high, the penalties for interfering with child custody can be severe.

Depending on the severity of the violation of the custody mandate, or whether there is sufficient proof of interference, a judge may order the defendant to pay fines, lose parenting time to “make up” for the interference, or even modify the custody order itself. Generally, only the most severe cases will be treated as felonies, in which case the offending parent may be found in contempt of court which can result in steep fines or jail time.

References: [1]Wisconsin Statute 948.31

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