Third Party Custody in Wisconsin

Third-party custody is a custody arrangement where the custody of a child involves a non parent, such as a grandparent or close relative. Third-party custody orders are necessary when neither parent can appropriately care for a child.

Third party custody is a form of custody in which neither one of the biological parents is awarded custody of the child. Usually, when this happens it's because of one of the following two reasons: the parents don't want custody or they are incapable of properly caring for the child.

Another name for this type of arrangement is “grandparents custody” as many times it's the grandparents of a child who request temporary custody of their grandchild to help their adult child.

Parents who are unfit[1] or incapable of caring for the child will generally lose custody by a ruling of the court. Reasons for such a ruling include instances of abuse or neglect of the child, substance abuse, abandonment, or an inability to bring in an income that allows for proper care of a child.

Parents who voluntarily give up custody of their child to another adult may do so for any number of reasons. Should that parent find themselves in a better situation in life, one that's a better fit for raising a child, they will have to seek custody in a future custody hearing.

An important thing to note is that simply being the biological parent is not enough to gain custody, even if the circumstances that lost them custody initially change. Once again, the parent would still have to win a custody case.

In the case of Barstad v. Frazier, 118 Wis.2d 549, 348 N.W.2d 479 (1984) (Reversing 112 Wis.2d 343, 332 N.W.2d 835)[2], the courts decided a parent is entitled to custody of his or her children (in relation to third parties) unless the parent is either unfit or unable to care for the children for any compelling reason. Compelling reasons include abandonment, neglecting parental responsibilities, extended disruption of parental custody. If any are found, the court can award custody to a third party if it seems in the best interest of the child.


References: [1]Supreme Court Case Clarifying Unfit Parents on WPR, [2]Barstad v. Frazier (1984)


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