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When Are Non-Parents Eligible for Child Custody in Wisconsin?

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Milwaukee family law attorneys, child custody rights, non-parent custody, legal guardianship, parental responsibilitiesDecisions about the custody and placement of children are often a factor in divorce proceedings or in cases where parents are unmarried. However, there are also situations where someone other than a child’s parents are closely involved in raising children. Non-parents who wish to obtain child custody rights for children in their care should be sure to understand how Wisconsin law applies to their situation.

Child Custody for Non-Parents

When making decisions about child custody, Wisconsin courts will act in the best interests of the child. In some cases, custody may be awarded to a child’s relative if the court finds that “neither parent is able to care for the child adequately or that neither parent is fit and proper to have the care and custody of the child.” Eligible relatives may include grandparents, aunts, uncles, stepparents, cousins, or siblings.

When disputes arise over child custody, Wisconsin courts strongly prefer to award custody to the child’s parent. However, custody may be awarded to another party if there are “compelling reasons” for doing so. These reasons may include a parent’s abandonment of his or her child, neglect of his or her parental responsibilities, or other extraordinary circumstances that would have a significant impact on a child’s welfare.

While it may be difficult to demonstrate that it would be in a child’s best interests to award custody to a relative rather than to a parent, there are many circumstances in which this type of custody arrangement may be preferable. Examples include:

  • A parent has left his or her child in the care of a grandparent and had no contact with the child for more than one year;

  • A parent has been incarcerated;

  • A parent has suffered a debilitating illness or disability that makes it difficult or impossible to care for his or her child; or

  • A parent has been convicted of child abuse. 

In many cases, relatives who are awarded custody of children may choose to seek legal guardianship of the child. This will provide them and the child with legal protections and allow them to make decisions about the child’s education and health care without terminating the parent’s parental rights.

Contact a Milwaukee Child Custody Lawyer

Disputes over child custody can be difficult to resolve; however, it is important to ensure that children’s best interests are protected and that they will be cared for and raised in a loving home.

If you are a non-parent who is acting as the primary caregiver to a child, the compassionate Milwaukee, WI family law attorneys of Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP can help you understand your options for seeking legal custody and advocate for the child’s best interests throughout the legal process. Contact us at 414-271-1440 to arrange a consultation.





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