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Child placement in Wisconsin: How much input should kids have?

On Behalf of | Jul 28, 2023 | Child Custody

When parents are about to go through divorce, child custody and placement are understandably a major concern. Parents and older children alike often ask whether kids get to choose which parent they want to live with.

For numerous important reasons, the answer in Wisconsin is that the preferences of children are taken into consideration, but they are almost never a deciding factor on their own. We’ll expand on this in today’s post, and we’ll discuss why giving kids too much freedom to choose can actually be detrimental to their emotional health and wellbeing.

Celebrity couple’s custody plans spark conversations

In late 2022, NFL star Tom Brady and fashion model Gisele Bundchen announced their plans to divorce. They have two children together, ages 12 and nine. According to news reports, Brady and Bundchen have come up with an unusual co-parenting strategy. Rather than having a clearly defined parenting plan for custody and placement, they are going to give the kids “full access” to each parent. In other words, the kids get to decide when and how often to see each parent.

There are, of course, numerous logistical problems likely to arise from such an arrangement. But more importantly, when kids are given complete freedom of choice over such an important issue (especially at a young age), it can create psychological and emotional problems.

Children thrive on structure, routine and predictability. They need to know which adult will be taking care of them and when. That kind of certainty creates a sense of security that is arguably more important than the freedom to choose on a whim.

Additionally, it can be dangerous to give a child too much choice about which parent to spend time with, because it always comes at the expense of the other parent. This could easily create feelings of guilt. Conversely, it could also be used as a weapon against whichever parent is more consistent about enforcing rules.

How it works in Wisconsin

When parents are unable to reach an agreement on their own, it falls on judges to make child custody and placement decisions. In Wisconsin, these decisions must be in the best interests of the child. There are about 14 factors judges consider when making placement decisions, and they are outlined in WI Statute 767.41 § (5).

Only one consideration is the wishes of the child or children. Even when judges do take this into account, it is weighted by other factors such as the age and maturity level of the child. While kids need to be respected and listened to, they typically cannot make such an important decision on their own.

Work with a skilled attorney in your custody matter

In most cases, custody and placement work best when negotiated between the parents. If that isn’t possible in your case, however, it is important to present the strongest argument for why your proposed custody/placement plan is in your children’s best interests. You’ll want to work with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who can be an effective advocate for you and your kids.