Thursday, September 3, 2009

What is the difference between custody and placement?

Quite often, parents are confused by the terms "custody" and "placement" when they start legal proceedings involving their children in Wisconsin. I always start my explanation of placement by telling people that placement is where the children are physically during the week. For example, Mom has placement of the children on Mondays and Tuesdays, Dad has placement of the children on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and the children alternate weekends between Mom and Dad's homes.

Custody is not as straight forward. Custody is defined as "... the right and responsibility to make major decisions concerning the child, except with respect to specified decisions as set forth by the court or the parties in the final judgment or order." Wisconsin Statute 767.001 (2). So what is a major decision? The statute goes on to say that a major decision "includes, but is not limited to, decisions regarding consent to marry, consent to enter military service, consent to obtain a motor vehicle operator’s license, authorization for nonemergency health care and choice of school and religion."

Obviously, we are not talking about what cereal the kids eat for breakfast. But, what if that nonemergency health care involves braces? I want my child to have braces, but my former spouse says no? The best way to avoid being back in court after a divorce or paternity case is to raise these issues in the beginning. Sure, some people can't agree the sky is blue when they are in the midst of a divorce; however, if you know that you and your spouse or child's parent have different views on when your child can drive or what school they should attend, raise the issue now.

As always, this blog posting is not a substitute for legal advice from an attorney that knows your specific circumstances. No attorney-client relationship is formed by the reading of this website. Use the information on this blog at your own risk.

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