Wisconsin is a "best interests of the child" state when it comes to splitting up custody and time between mom and dad. This standard means a judge will review all filings and circumstances presented as evidence before making a decision based on what she or he believes is best for the children.
What factors impact how a judge may rule? Do you have to let a judge decide your fate, or can you do something before it gets that far? Understanding some of the factors a court uses in determining custody and placement may help you craft a plan before the judge steps in.
Does one parent encourage a relationship with the other?
In splits involving children, whether the parents have wed or not, emotions tend to run high. If parents did not see eye to eye while living together, there is a good chance it will not suddenly start after a separation. The court does not look kindly on one parent badmouthing the other or not encouraging children to visit the other parent. A court will decide which parent will foster a better relationship with the other when determining custody.
What kind of parent-child relationship exists?
If children have only known one parent for most of their lives, a judge will typically not grant the absent parent custody rights, at least not at first. The court delves deeply into sole custody requests, as it may merely mean one parent wants more child support.
What is the parents' home life like?
At the top of the determination list is the parents' living situation. A judge is more apt to grant custody to the parent living in the more consistent home environment than the one who moves or is unstable. If one parent stays in the family home, for example, that person may get permanent or partial sole custody to keep the kids in a familiar environment during the transition.
Custody determinations typically send emotions into high gear. Doing your best to come to an agreement before appearing in front of a judge is your best shot at getting what you want.