Grandparents' Rights

Grandparent and Non-Parent Visitation Rights in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, the legal rights of grandparents can be complicated. Numerous circumstances may affect visitation with a minor grandchild (under age 18). Since it is the goal of the court system to rule in favor of the best interests of the child, grandparents must be able to convince the court that their rights to visitation are beneficial to the grandchild if contested by the child’s parent(s).

Non-Parent or Third-Party Rights for Visitation with Minor Children

Wisconsin laws on grandparent rights may also pertain to other third parties as well. Referred to as “an otherwise undefined person seeking visitation rights,” this would include persons such as an aunt, uncle, or step-parent who has a substantial relationship with a minor child and would like to continue that bond.

Attorneys Helping With Grandparents’ Rights and Third-Party Rights in Wisconsin

Case law has attempted to help clarify the rights of grandparents and other non-parents, and continues to do so. The family law attorneys at Murphy Desmond have experience handling grandparents’ and third-party rights cases, and can assist you in the following areas:

  • Grandparent visitation with grandchildren/Third-party visitation
  • Guardianship of grandchildren/minor children (long-term or temporary)
  • Concerns over minor children’s safety and well-being
  • Working to get a guardian ad litem appointed
  • Custody of minor children
  • Physical Placement time
  • Grandparent and third-party rights when minor child’s parent is incarcerated
  • Grandparent and third-party rights when minor child’s parents are deceased or incapacitated
  • Setting up a secured trust for grandchildren

Legal Guidance For Grandparents and Third Parties Seeking Legal Visitation With Minor Children

A determinant factor that has shown to affect grandparent or third-party legal rights is whether or not the parents of the minor child(ren) are married. The court may be more flexible when the parents of the minor are unmarried or a parent is deceased, but not always. Each case brings a unique set of circumstances.

However, the courts will largely consider the rights of grandparents or a third party if there are concerns about the safety and well-being of the child, regardless of whether the parents are married or not. If you suspect child abuse, neglect, or any kind of endangerment to the child, contact an attorney immediately.  Agencies like social services may become involved, and it is likely that a judge will appoint a guardian ad litem (a non-partial attorney) to assess the situation and propose a resolution. A guardian ad litem’s role is always to resolve matters in the best interests of the minor child. In some cases, that could include placement with willing grandparents or relatives in lieu of foster care.

When Grandparents or Other Relatives Become Legal Guardians

In some situations, parents may wish to terminate or limit their own parental rights and choose the grandparents or other relatives as legal guardians of the minor children.  A family law attorney can guide you through this process and help establish legal rights of everyone involved.

Navigating Through the Legal Process

Grandparents’ rights and third-party rights remain challenging under Wisconsin law, as the courts presume the parents are looking out for the best interests of the child. Ideally, families can work out their differences without the need for lawyers.   

If an agreement cannot be reached, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Murphy Desmond S.C.  Like the courts, our goal is to ensure the best interests of the child, and that well-intentioned family members who wish to spend time with the child will have visitation rights.

Contact our family law attorneys at 608-257-7181 or to discuss your grandparent case details. We have offices in Madison, Janesville, Dodgeville, and Appleton, Wisconsin, to assist with grandparent rights, custody matters, divorce, marital agreements (prenuptial and postnuptial agreements), and other family legal matters.