For nearly 30 years, attorney Ann I. Brandau has helped clients in Wisconsin and Minnesota with their child custody matters. Whether your concern is the temporary placement of your child during the period of legal separation preliminary to divorce, the initial placement after divorce, a modification of the court's custody orders or enforcement of a current court order, there is an answer. You can rest assured that you have explored all of the possible legal solutions and obtained straightforward advice for your family law and child custody matter by collaborating with our team at Brandau & Waltz Law Offices, LLP.
In a divorce, most parents will say that the last thing they want to do is cause harm to their children during the process. The courts have systems in place to resolve custody disputes, but often parents try to work out these issues themselves with the assistance of their attorneys. An important aspect of this process is understanding the legal "terms of art" used in custody matters and appreciating the factors that a court looks at in making custody decisions.
Minnesota Child Custody And Parenting Time
Each state has its own definitions for the terms used in custody matters. It is important to know the terms and their meanings. For a comprehensive explanation of the law as it pertains to your case, contact our firm to speak with one of our lawyers. Below you will find a general sampling of the terms and their meanings. Under Minnesota law, the following terms and definitions are important:
- Legal custody: Legal custody can be either "sole" or "joint." Sole custody is when one parent has the right to make decisions pertaining to education, religious upbringing and nonemergency medical care. Joint custody allows both parents to have equal rights and responsibilities in major decisions requiring parental consent.
- Physical custody: Physical custody deals with the residence and daily care of the children. The parents can share joint physical custody and both be involved in the children's daily care or one parent can have sole physical custody and be primarily responsible, including making day-to-day decisions.
- Parenting time: In Minnesota, the term parenting time refers to the schedule that each parent has with his or her children. When the parents work out their own schedules, they can look at what they believe is best for the children and their own schedules. There is no one perfect schedule.
- Early neutral evaluation (ENE): ENE is voluntary alternative dispute resolution for custody/parenting time issues. Depending on local court rules, the program may work in conjunction with an Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC) that is scheduled by the court. At that conference, the ENE can be scheduled. It is an informal setting where the parents, their attorneys and a two-person team (male-female) spend from one to three hours discussing and working toward a solution for custody/parenting time issues. This may or may not be used in your county, but if it is, it is important to discuss the process and how to prepare for it with your attorney.
- Guardian ad litem (GAL): The simple definition of a guardian ad litem (GAL) is a person appointed by the court to advocate for the children's best interests. In Minnesota, GALs are usually nonattorneys who have been trained in their rights and responsibilities in representing children during the divorce or post-divorce process. GALs may be appointed by the court when custody and parenting time is at issue, but there is no requirement that a GAL be appointed in all such cases.
- Parenting time expeditor: A parenting time expeditor is a person trained in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) who is either appointed or, in some cases, chosen by the parents and approved by the court to assist in resolving parenting time disputes. This can occur during or after the divorce. When a parenting time expeditor is appointed by the court, the parents present issues related to their parenting time schedule to the expeditor for resolution. The expeditor attempts to resolve the situation with the parents, but if that is not possible, the expeditor has the authority to interpret the court orders and make a decision consistent with those orders on parenting time.
Wisconsin Child Custody, Placement And Visitation
Under Wisconsin laws, the Wisconsin Circuit Court presiding over your divorce case will make a determination of custody in the final divorce decree. It is always the court's objective to make the best possible decision for the child, one that is in his or her best interest and to his or her greatest benefit. Wisconsin courts begin with the presumption that the parents can and will always consider the best interests of the child and share jointly in all legal decisions affecting the child's welfare. The court will also presume that physical placement of the child will be primary to one parent and secondary to the other, but that the parents will cooperatively arrange visits and schedules.
A court then determines if those presumptions are accurate. If no evidence is presented to the contrary, the court assumes that the presumptions are correct. At that point, the court will make its findings and enter its order, known as a child custody award or order of the court.
If those presumptions are correct in your situation, then it could be said that cooperation is the best way to handle a divorce or custody dispute from the child's perspective. However, if yours is a situation where those presumptions would not be in the best interests of your child, then proper arguments should be made to the court.
We Are Dedicated To Protecting You And Your Children
At Brandau & Waltz Law Offices, LLP, we have helped hundreds of parents with their child custody disputes, initial custody orders and modification or enforcement. We regularly consult with Wisconsin and Minnesota clients regarding a variety of family law matters.
Schedule a consultation at our La Crosse office by calling 608-784-2050 or send us an email by completing our online contact form.