Custody vs. Placement; What’s the Difference?

By Renee A. Read
February 26, 2015

Many individuals confuse these terms. Contrary to the general public’s assumption, custody in Wisconsin does not refer to the time a parent has with a child. Instead, custody refers to a parent’s ability to make major decisions involving the child. Major decisions are defined in Wis. Stat. §767.001(2m). “‘Major decisions’ 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.” (Wis. Stat. §767.001(2m)). In most cases, it is presumed that joint legal custody is in the best interest of the child. Nonetheless, it is possible for the court to grant sole legal custody in certain circumstances.

Placement, on the other hand, describes time allocated to a parent to physically spend time with the child. Many individuals associate this meaning with visitation, which is a term used in some other states. During physical placement, a parent has the right and responsibility to make routine daily decisions regarding the child’s care. However, such decisions cannot be inconsistent with major custodial decision-making. The placement statute (Wis. Stat. §767.001(2m)) directs that the Court set a schedule which “maximizes the amount of time the child may spend with each parent” taking into consideration certain factors. Many judges find this as strong support for ordering equal physical placement between the parents. However, the best interest of the child is paramount, and the factors aide the court in determining what is best for the child. Nonetheless, Wisconsin law specifically states that the Court may not prefer one parent over the other on the basis of gender.

If you have questions about custody and placement, it is important that you speak with an attorney regarding the specific facts of your case. The above is a general description of the terms, but each case is unique and much that goes into a full analysis.

Attorney Renee A. Read
Remley & Sensenbrenner, S.C.
219 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Neenah, WI 54914
T: 920-725-2601

This Blog is focused on divorce and family law practice in the Fox Cities of Wisconsin, but is generally applicable for the entire state of Wisconsin.

Disclaimer: The content on this site is intended to provide general information regarding the subject matters covered. The provision of this information is not intended by the author as legal advice. If you need or desire legal advice, you should consult an attorney for advice specific to your situation. Further, laws change over time so the information should be verified before relying on it.

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