How Legal Custody is Defined

In Wisconsin the legal term custody refers to decision-making rights. Wisconsin family courts have determined it is in the child's best interests for parents to hold joint-legal custody.

Children need a parent who can make major decisions for them. The parent awarded legal custody is given the right to make these decisions. While “major decisions” may seem like a blanket term that could cover a wide range of topics, legally speaking there are a few items in particular that fall under this phrase. Major decisions include:

  • where the child attends school
  • the child's religious rearing
  • non emergency health care options
  • the child's right to obtain a driver's license
  • consent for getting married as a minor


Start Preparing for Co-Parenting

Get your WI parenting plan worksheet here. Reviewing this form is a good way to prepare yourself mentally for the conversations you'll need to have regarding your children.

For a complete list, you can see the Wisconsin state statutes here. One thing that is important to note about legal custody is it has nothing to do with where the child lives. In general, Wisconsin courts start from the assumption that both parents should have legal custody. This means if one parent wants sole legal custody, they will need to prepare a convincing case proving the other parent is not fit to make decisions in the best interests of the child.

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