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Child Custody in Minnesota and Wisconsin

Whether going through a divorce or in a situation where paternity has been established, child custody is a matter that can come about at practically any time. It can be a complicated issue in which emotions run high, yet the children must be spared from as much of the conflict as possible.

If you are seeking custody of your children, you are going through a divorce in which child custody is an issue, or you need to defend against the other parent’s request for custody of the children, you need an experienced Duluth family law attorney by your side every step of the way in order to obtain the best result for you and your children.

Skilled Child Custody Representation

There are two types of child custody. Those types are:

  • Physical custody – In Minnesota, the parent who has the responsibility of meeting the day-to-day needs of the child has physical custody. Wisconsin does not have physical custody; it addresses a child’s day to day needs through physical placement.
  • Legal custody – a parent who has the responsibility and input for making major decisions regarding the child’s welfare, health, and education, obtaining a driver’s license, involvement with the armed services, and marrying as a minor has legal custody. See Minnesota Statute 518.003 and Wisconsin Statute 767.001.

There is a presumption in Minnesota and Wisconsin that parents will share joint legal custody of their child or children. In Minnesota, there are no presumptions about physical custody of a child. There may be facts in your case that suggests that it may not be in your child’s best interest to share custody. If the parents do not agree on a custody arrangement, then the court will make the decision based on the best interests of the child(ren).

Helping Ensure the Best Interests Of The Children

Everyone involved in the proceedings is interested in ensuring the best interests of the children. This is why there is a number of points that are evaluated. Those points, in short, are:

  • The wishes of the parents and the child
  • If the child is a sufficient age, the preference of the child
  • Who currently takes care of the child
  • The child’s relationship with each parent and anyone else in the household
  • The child’s adjustment to the community, home, and school
  • The length of time the child has been in a stable home and the desirability to maintain
  • The mental and physical state of all individuals involved, excluding disabilities
  • The capacity of each party to give the child the love and guidance they need
  • The cultural background of the child
  • Whether any domestic abuse has occurred between the parents or to the child
  • The disposition of each parent to permit and encourage contact by the other parent
  • Professional reports offered into evidence
  • The criminal backgrounds of each parent and those living in their homes
  • Chemical abuse issues
  • See Minnesota Statute 518.17 and Wisconsin Statute 767.41

The judge is responsible for making findings on each one of these points.  Sometimes the judge will appoint a neutral evaluator or guardian at litem to evaluate these points.  A custody evaluator or guardian ad litem will report his or her findings to the court, so that the appropriate custody arrangement can be established. During this process, your Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin child custody lawyer will be there to help you.

Father’s Rights

In most cases, children are born from their biological mother.  We say most cases because these days surrogate mothers are becoming more common and gaining more acceptance. It is far easier to tell what mother a child comes from then who a child’s father is. Last time we checked men remain biologically incapable of giving birth to a child and there are sperm donor banks.

In Minnesota and Wisconsin it is presumed that the husband to a marriage is the child’s father when the child is born during the marriage.  Dads have mostly equal legal custodial rights to a child when a child is born during a marriage. Seems easy, right?

But when a child is not born during a marriage or is the child of a sexual partner who is not a husband to a marriage then things are unequal.  All rights to custody of children born “outside of wedlock” are granted to a mother under Minnesota and Wisconsin law.  The only way for a dad or father to level the playing field to a child of his born outside of a marriage is to petition a court for custody and visitation rights to the child.

Paternity is the legal recognition of a parent and child relationship between a father and his child.  Establishing paternity does not establish a right to custody of or visitation with a child for a dad or father. A father is required to have paternity established before he may petition a court to award him custody and visitation rights to a child. Paternity may be established through a written acknowledgement of paternity (also known as a recognition of parentage) or a DNA test that confirms that a child is the biological offspring of a man.  It is not uncommon for a man to be asked to participate in a DNA test by a local county government in order to verify paternity for the purposes of child support.

Matters surrounding fathers’ rights are very sensitive. A father wants to exercise his rights when it comes to his children. Perhaps this is the right to visitation, the right to support the children, or even the right to seek custody. Whatever the matter, it is very important that a father be a part of his child’s life.

If you are facing a fathers’ rights issue, an experienced Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin custody lawyer can help you through it. You will receive the guidance you need, as well as straightforward and honest advice that will help you secure a favorable result.

Compassionate Representation For Fathers

There are two titles that are more important than being an attorney: husband, and dad or father.  Part of what makes me a valuable attorney is my experience of being a dad or father.

Helping dads or fathers exercise their rights is not meant to be anti-female or anti-mom; it is about giving the father the equal opportunity to be a part of the lives of his children. In many instances my role as a dad or father is equally valuable to our mother or mom clients because it allows us to explain and explore the thought process of your child’s dad or father. Regardless of his relationship with the mother, a father needs to have a role in the upbringing of his children, whether that is by visiting them or sharing custody of them.

Fathers do have the right to visit their children, they have their right to request custody of their children, and they can modify child support or visitation orders as necessary. If the mother requests to move to another state with the child, it is the right of the father to oppose the move. It is very important to listen to a father’s voice when it comes to his children.

Physical Placement (WI) & Parenting Time (MN)

Different states have expressed when and how much time a child or children will spend with their parents using different terminology. Minnesota expresses this through the term “parenting time” while Wisconsin uses the phrase “physical placement.” The common synonym for both terms used to be “visitation.”

Parents must give very deliberate, careful thought about what schedule will best serve their children.  A few of the key elements in creating a “visitation” schedule include the school and activity routines of the child, the distance that the parties live from each other, the work schedule of each party, any special needs the child may have, whether domestic abuse has occurred and the involvement of third parties in make the schedule work.  Visits between parents and children can be supervised or unsupervised.  A judge may reserve supervised visits for situations whereby a child’s safety is affected by a condition or situation created by a parent.

A parent should also give careful thought to how a child will spend his or her holiday, summer and school breaks when the child is of sufficient age to attend school.  A parent should give reflection to what his or her past family traditions have been when it comes to major religious and secular holidays.  A parent that has limited time with a child during a school year most likely will see an increased amount of time during non-schooling months.

At the end of the day, a parent must come to grips quickly with the notion that judges, evaluators, mediators, attorneys and guardian ad litems are not concerned about what schedule is most ideal for a child’s parents; this is all about your child. Parents must agree upon a schedule that will allow a child to continue having both parents in his or her life.

Finally, parenting time or physical placement has an impact on the amount of child support paid by one parent.  Generally speaking, the more parenting time that a parent has with a child, the less they pay in child support.  Parents with equal parenting time or physical placement may not need to pay any support.

Contact a Child Custody Attorney

Child custody is a very serious family legal matter that requires a great deal of care. It is important to have an attorney who can guide you through the process. To talk to an experienced child custody lawyer, call the Benjamin Kaasa Law Office, PLLC at 218-464-3397 for a consultation.

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