Posted on

Grandparents Rights (Updated 10/09/2019)

Grandparent Rights in Wisconsin

Many states allow at least some form of grandparent visitation, after a determination as to whether such visitation is in the best interests of the child.  However, under a new WI Supreme Court case this process has gotten much more difficult. The first thing the grandparents must prove is that the parents aren’t fit or are unfit to make this decision.   At Petit & Dommershausen, we guide you thru the process to get grandparents a great outcome.

Grandparent Visitation

Parents have fundamental rights to raise their children as they see fit, as long as the children’s basic emotional and physical needs are being met.

A grandparent must file a petition requesting visitation with the court. A judge will schedule a hearing to review the circumstances of the case and allow the child’s parents to respond.

All of the following factors must be present for a judge to grant grandparent visitation:

  • The parent is unfit (this is a difficult standard)
  • the child’s parents are not married, or were married but have subsequently divorced, separated or one parent is deceased
  • the child isn’t adopted (to non-family members)
  • the grandparent has maintained a relationship with the child, or has attempted to maintain a relationship but was prevented by the parent
  • the grandparent is unlikely to act counter to the parent’s decisions regarding the child’s emotional physical, educational or spiritual welfare, and
  • that grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests.  Most of the time a Guardian ad Litem will be appointed to advise the Judge as to what they think is in the best interests of the child.

Wisconsin courts require all the above elements to be met for grandparent visitation to occur.

The Court will then determine a reasonable amount of visitation.  What constitutes “reasonable visitation” will depend on the unique circumstances of your case.

When Can Grandparents Get Guardianship of a Grandchild?

In some cases, a grandparent may be able to obtain guardianship over a child’s natural parent when it’s necessary to protect the child’s safety or well-being and the parents are unfit to meet the child’s needs.

A court may only award guardianship to a child’s grandparent if the following are true:

  • granting guardianship to the grandparent would serve the child’s best interests, and
  • the parent is unfit or unable to adequately care for the child, or there are other compelling reasons for awarding guardianship to a grandparent.

The experienced and compassionate attorneys at Petit & Dommershausen can help you thru this difficult process. Call Attorney Tajara Dommershausen today to learn more about your rights and get the help you need.

Posted on

School District Choice: Who makes it?

So, you and your significant other separated and have a joint custody/joint placement order. Sharing placement has been relatively calm but now your child needs to start school.  The two of  you live in different school districts so who gets to choose the school district?

Under Wisconsin statutes, joint legal custody means that the parents share major decision making. Neither parent’s rights are superior. Major decisions include consent to marry, consent to enter military service, consent to obtain a driver’s license, authorize non-emergency healthcare, choice of school, and choice of religion. The presumption in Wisconsin is that joint legal custody is in the best interest of your child.

The sooner you start this discussion with your former significant other, the better. August is not the time to start discussing this. Most counties will require the parents to go to mediation first. Mediation is with a neutral third party who tries to help you work through the issues that you are having. This is the least expensive alternative. If at mediation you cannot reach an agreement, a motion will need to be filed with the court.

The court does not decide which school the child will go to; however, the court does decide which parent gets the right to make that choice. After a motion is filed, it will be set for an initial hearing. If you have already been to mediation on the issue, the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem. A Guardian ad Litem is an attorney who does an investigation and looks into the best interest of your child and makes a recommendation to the court. If, after a Guardian ad Litem recommendation, the parties can reach an agreement or the court makes an order. If the parties are in disagreement with that order, the matter can be set for a trial. Mediation can often take a few months as can the Guardian ad Litem process. Therefore, the sooner this important decision is discussed and a motion filed, the better off you and your child will be.

If you need help with this process, please contact Petit & Dommershausen today and speak to one of our experienced family law attorneys. With three convenient locations in Oshkosh, the Appleton area, and Green Bay, we serve all of northeast Wisconsin including Outagamie, Winnebago, Waupaca, Calumet, Brown, Oconto, Marinette, and Fond do Lac counties.

Posted on

Do I have to go to mediation? And why do I have to take a parenting class first?

I have had many parents ask me why they have to participate in mediation. They often explain that they have not been able to reach an agreement with their child’s other parent on their own, and therefore mediation just won’t work. What those parents don’t realize, and what I explain to them, is that Wisconsin’s family court laws have made mediation the required first step.  Wisconsin Statute 767.405(5) directs that a court must refer parents with placement and custody disputes to their county’s mediation program.  In addition, parents are required to attend a parenting class, which usually doubles as the mediation orientation session. The focus of this programming is often related to co-parenting communication and explanations of how the mediation process works.   Though you should not agree to any custody arrangements you can’t deal with for at least a couple years, most of the local counties have very high rates of successfully getting parents to an agreement.   There are only limited circumstances in which you can bypass the mediation process and proceed directly to a GAL (guardian ad litem).

Continue reading Do I have to go to mediation? And why do I have to take a parenting class first?

Posted on

Benefits of Establishing Paternity

Establishing paternity has many benefits outside child support, but proof of paternity is required to receive those benefits. Many of the benefits only come into play in the event of the father’s death, therefore you shouldn’t delay establishing legal fatherhood.