When couples with children split up, they often turn to the courts to iron out the details of co-parenting. When these parents enter the court system there could be any number of results, but typically there are two options: 1) they could come to agreement on how things will work (called a “stipulation”) or they can bring their side of the story to a judge who will then give them an answer. Either way the matter is resolved with a judge signing an order outlining legal custody and physical placement. Now this new set of families has a set of guidelines to live by when dealing with each other.
It may sound simple, but navigating the court system can be overwhelming. As a family law attorney, Attorney Devin Shanley of Shanley Law LLC helps single parents understand the legal complexities of co-parenting. He takes an overwhelming child custody situation and makes it manageable.
Family Court Orders
Parents fighting over their legal rights to their child often find it helpful to understand a few commonly used family law terms. In general, people use the term “child custody” to mean everything from where a child lives to who signs the child’s permission slip for summer camp. In contrast, the courts use specific legal terms. Here’s a quick description of legal custody, physical placement, and visitation.
As kids grow up, their sense of independence grows right along with their shoe size. Sometimes, they put their parents on the spot with their grown-up requests. They want a nose piercing or a dragon tattoo. They want to get married or join the Army.
The person who legally says yes or no to these requests is the person with legal custody. Generally speaking, legal custody is the person who has the ability to make major life decisions for the child.
Classic examples of this are:
- What religion tradition will the child be raised in?
- Where will the child go to school?
- How old a child will be when she gets her ears pierced?
The legal custodian also signs the permission slips for school, trips, clubs, etc. He or she talks to the doctor about the child’s health and makes medical decisions for the child.
Physical placement describes a child’s living arrangements. Where is the child going to stay? Who is going to have the child at any given time? Physical placement also gives the parent the ability to make routine day to day decisions for the child that is consistent with the major decisions made by the person who have legal custody.
There are generally two models for placement: what is called “shared” placement and a combination of “primary” and “secondary” placement. If the model of placement is “shared” then time between the parties is identical, or practically identical. In case where primary and secondary placement is used, then the parent who has primary placement will have the child by default which is interrupted by secondary placement. For example, Mom has primary placement of Jimmy and Dad has secondary placement every other weekend.
Visitation is the legal right for people to see and interact with a child. Although this often means less time than physical placement, really it is just the right to see the child and does not convey any authority to make even routine decisions for the child like physical placement provides. If a parent is not awarded placement, then visitation can be used as a substitute.
Other people who have a close relationship with the child, such as grandparents, step-parents, and people with a like-parent relationship, can also request for visitation. Wisconsin law, primarily Wisconsin Statute §767.43, outlines these third-party rights. The procedure and strategies for third party visitation cases can be nuanced, so consulting with an attorney is advised if you wish to pursue such an action.
Family law attorney
Parents benefit from knowing and understanding their legal rights. Having a good attorney at their side makes all the difference. Contact Attorney Shanley today for a free Family Law consultation.
About Us: Attorney Devin Shanley is the approachable expert clients can trust. A native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Devin has been developing legal solutions in his beloved hometown since 2012. Married to Mo and dad to two rambunctious kids, he has a soft spot for the Green Bay Packers, grilling out, and playing with his kids. His areas of practice are Estate Planning, Family Law, Business Law, and Non-Profit Organization Law. Schedule your free consultation by calling 920-471-4337.