How to Get Custody of Your Niece or Nephew in Wisconsin

Wisconsin courts tend to prefer giving guardianship of a child to a family member when the parents are not fit to keep custody. One example of a family member could be an aunt or uncle. An aunt or uncle only gets guardianship of their niece or nephew when it is in the child’s best interest.

Do you need to get custody of your niece or nephew? If so, here’s what you need to know.

If a child’s parents cannot take care of them, the court gives guardianship of the child to a family member. That family member can be a grandparent, aunt, uncle, older sibling, or anyone else substantially close to the child. When a family member takes over care of the child, it means they have guardianship of the minor child, not custody.

Custody Rights of Aunts and Uncles

Guardianship covers custody and placement, meaning the child's guardian will make major decisions for the child and take care of them day-to-day. A family member becoming their guardian prevents the child from going into foster care. Having an attorney ensures the process goes as well as it can, so if you need one, call Sterling Lawyers.

Filing for Guardianship

The person who wants guardianship of a child needs to file all the necessary paperwork. The forms needed for guardianship include the petition, nomination, statement, and a few documents.

The petition begins the case to provide the initial facts, the nomination recommends a person to act as the guardian, and the statement is where the proposed guardian confirms they want to be the guardian of the child.

Types of Guardianship an Aunt or Uncle Can Have

There are four key types of guardianship. The type of guardianship the court awards to the guardian depends on how long the child needs a guardian for.

  1. Emergency guardianship is for immediate needs.
  2. Temporary guardianship is for issues that have a concrete end point.
  3. Full guardianship is a long-term solution that lasts until the child turns 18.
  4. Limited guardianship is a long-term option where the parent or parents can still have some authority over the child.

For Immediate help with your family law case or answering any questions please call (262) 221-8123 now!

How the Court Makes Guardianship Decisions

The court’s goal is to assign the child a guardian who will support them and foster a positive long-term relationship. To do this, the court looks at three key things: the child’s best interests, the guardian ad litem’s recommendation, and the family’s recommendation.

The family’s recommendation is one of the most important factors because it includes the parents’ preferences, the child’s preference, and the recommendations of other key family members. Usually, the court gives preference to whomever the child recommends as long as it is in the child’s best interest to be with that person.

For more information on this, read How Guardianship Works in Wisconsin.

Are you ready to move forward? Call (262) 221-8123 to schedule a strategy session with one of our attorneys.


Do I Need an Attorney to Get Guardianship of My Niece/Nephew?

If the parents of the child are unwilling to give you guardianship, you will want an attorney. This is a contested guardianship case where you will have to prove the parents are unfit to keep the child, and that you having guardianship would be in the best interest of the child.

Do I Need to Go to Court for Guardianship?

The court is almost always involved in cases of guardianship. The only way the court won’t be involved is if they are not yet aware the parents are unfit. Someone could help the parent and take care of the child for a time if the parent let them, but that is not an effective long-term solution. There is no paper trail if the issues continue, and the child will not have the stability they need to thrive.

Do Aunts and Uncles Have Visitation Rights?

Aunts and uncles can get visitation rights if they prove to the court that it would be in the child’s best interests. Visitation is different from guardianship because the parents maintain their custody of the child.

For Immediate help with your family law case or answering any questions please call (262) 221-8123 now!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can an aunt apply for parental responsibility?

An aunt can apply for parental responsibility of a child. To do this, an aunt or uncle files the necessary documents for guardianship. The courts often prefer to give guardianship to a family member, so an aunt is a great option.

How is custody determined in Wisconsin?

Custody is determined by the custody factors outlined in Wisconsin’s statutes. The court determines guardianship using different factors. However, whether custody or guardianship, the most important thing is the best interest of the child.

How do I get guardianship of a child without going to court in Wisconsin?

You cannot get guardianship of a child without going to court. You can help a child by taking them for a time if the parent is okay with it, but that is not legal guardianship. To get guardianship, you have to be nominated then selected by the court.

Can my niece live with me?

Your niece could live with you if the court grants you guardianship. Your niece could also live with you for a time if their parents are okay with it, but the best way to protect them is by getting legal guardianship of them. It can always be temporary guardianship if the issue is short-term.

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