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. When a third party is gets custody it is called guardianship. To get guardianship, you begin the process by filing out the guardianship forms

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.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are grandparents’ rights in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, grandparents have the right to file for visitation or guardianship of their grandchild. The court will only order them to get one of these if the situation meets a specific set of criteria.

What does an unfit parent mean in Wisconsin?

An unfit parent is one who cannot take care of their children. Whether it is due to abandonment or criminal history, the court can decide a parent is not able to effectively care for their child. This only happens in situations where the child’s well-being is in danger.

Can a child refuse to see a parent in Wisconsin?

A child must see their parents if the court orders it. If the child no longer wishes to see one of their parents, the other parent needs to file to modify custody and placement. The child does not get to decide what to do on their own, but the court will take their opinion into consideration.

Can you change a custody agreement without going to court in Wisconsin?

You can change the custody arrangement if it is a minor change that both parties agree to. How you make this change should be outlined in your parenting plan. If you do not have it outlined, then you can discuss how best to do it with the other parent.

Is parental alienation a crime in Wisconsin?

Parental alienation is something that can have legal consequences in court. The best way to address the issue is to document it as thoroughly as possible and file to enforce the custody order. Having an attorney will help a lot because these cases are complicated.

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