Legal Information: Wisconsin


October 5, 2021

When will a judge award one parent sole legal custody?

The judge may give sole legal custody only if it finds that doing so is in the child’s best interest and that either of the following applies:

  1. Both parties agree on who gets sole legal custody; or
  2. The parties do not agree on who gets sole legal custody, but at least one party requests sole legal custody and the judge specifically determines that any of the following are true:
  • One party is not capable of performing parental duties and responsibilities or does not wish to have an active role in raising the child;
  • One or more conditions exist at that time that would make joint legal custody extremely difficult; or
  • The parties will not be able to cooperate in the future decision making required under an award of joint legal custody. In making this decision, the judge will also consider any reasons given by a party objecting to joint legal custody, such as evidence that either party engaged in abuse of the child, or evidence of interspousal battery, or domestic abuse.1 For more information, see Can a parent who committed violence get custody or visitation?

Note: The judge may not give sole legal custody to a parent who refuses to cooperate with the other parent if the judge finds that the refusal to cooperate is unreasonable.2

1 Wis. Stat. § 767.41(2)(b)
2 Wis. Stat. § 767.41(2)(c)

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