If you are a grandparent, you may have an especially unique bond with your grandchild. However, what are your rights as a grandparent when it comes to visitation, under Wisconsin law? What happens if it is against the parent’s wishes for you to see your grandchild?
When Does the Law Give Rights to Grandparents?
In order to be granted visitation rights, you must petition the court. You should file a petition with the family court that has jurisdiction and retain an experienced family law attorney.
You may have the right to visitation if all of the following are true:
- The child’s parents are not married or were married, but have divorced, separated or one is deceased.
- The child is not adopted.
- You have maintained, or attempted to maintain, a relationship with the child.
- You aren’t in conflict with the parent(s) over the best way to raise the child.
- The judge feels it’s in the child’s best interests.
If you are able to prove you have maintained a strong relationship with the child, then there is a chance that visitation rights may be granted.
How Do You Request Visitation Rights?
In these cases, the parents unfortunately have the upper hand. This is due to the fact that courts heavily favor the parent’s wishes. When parents have a legal dispute regarding custody or placement, the court looks at what is in the “best interests” of the child. However, when a third party, such as a grandparent, commences a legal dispute against a legal parent involving physical placement, the court looks at “fitness” of one or both parents. Parents have a fundamental constitutional right to decide raise their child without government intervention, which includes determining who can see their child and when. Thus, the grandparent in a guardianship action must prove that the parent is “unfit.” However, in grandparent visitation matters, the grandparent must prove that it is in the child’s best interest to have visitation based on “clear and convincing evidence,” which is a higher burden of proof. Additionally, a recent case in 2019 made it more difficult for grandparents to successfully obtain visitation rights, because it puts a heavy burden of proof on the grandparents to allow parents to maintain the standard that they should be able to raise their children as they see fit without governmental interference.
You may very well have a Guardian ad Litem assigned to investigate the case, and to make recommendations to the court. But ultimately, if you cannot reach an agreement with the parents, the decision will be up the judge’s discretion based on the evidence. These are tough cases! The right attorney can help you assess your case and can help you determine if you have sufficient evidence to effectively prove to the court that sustaining your relationship is in the best interests of the child.
For experienced guidance throughout your family law case, contact Walden, Neitzke & Kuhary, S.C. The loss of the ability to have a relationship with the child you deeply care for is no small loss. With so much on the line, taking a chance on inexperienced legal counsel could prove detrimental.