Can Grandparents Get Custody of Grandchildren in Wisconsin?

Though extremely rare, it is possible for grandparents to apply for total child custody of a grandchild. In most cases, this is only granted when both biological parents are deemed unfit to care for their children. Also in the case where both parents pass away, the grandparents would have a recourse to apply for custody.

Can Grandparents get visitation rights in WI?

In Wisconsin, Grandparents are not entitled to visitation rights by default. In most cases, a grandparent's right to see their grandchildren is left to the discretion of the parents. However, there are some specific cases where a grandparent or another third party such as a step-parent, could petition the court for visitation.

Third Party Visitation in Wisconsin

When someone like a grandparent, stepparent or others who have a parent-like tie to the child applies for visitation rights, this is called “third party visitation”. This applies to children outside of a marriage too. For instance, if a non-married couple had a child and was often looked after by the grandparents, they could apply for third party custody rights .

As is true in all visitation and custody cases, criminal history and one's past relationship with the children will have a big effect on the outcome of the ruling. In any case, the parents of the child must be unmarried or legally separated for visitation to be considered.

How And When Would Grandparents Get Visitation Rights to a Child?

Unfortunately, WI law tends to heavily favor the parent's wishes in raising their child, meaning that if they choose to stop the relationship between you and your grandchildren you may have little recourse. Additionally, a 2000 Supreme Court case, it was largely determined that a parent should have the ultimate say in their child's upbringing. This ruling sets a precedent potentially complicates rulings made in WI and every other state.

When it comes to visitation and custody rights in the family court system in Wisconsin there's only one thing that truly matters: the children's best interest. It's important if choosing to petition the court for visitation that you can prove that a lack of relationship with the children would be damaging to them.

Furthermore, it's important that if you're applying for visitation you can prove that you had a previous and significant relationship with the children already. For instance, if you visited your grandchild every Sunday before the divorce and then were suddenly stopped from continuing that relationship after the parents split up, a judge may deem that your visits were part of the child's routine and should continue.

In other words, suing for visitation to establish a relationship that didn't exist previously more than likely won't work.

As is true in any of these cases, it's always best to first consult an experienced family attorney before moving forward with any action in court.


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