Demystifying Common Legal Terms in Child Custody Disputes

   It is no secret that child custody disputes can be some of the most bitter and emotionally traumatizing legal battles a person can experience. It is no wonder; our decisions regarding our childrens’ care and upbringing are often the most important and consequential decisions we can make, and seeing our childrens’ future determined in a courtroom can be deeply frightening. 

   Because these matters involve an intersection between legal standards and deeply personal and emotional matters, there can be a lot of confusion and misunderstanding regarding legal terms and processes in custody disputes. Interestingly, while the solution to these matters can be complex, the applicable legal issues and processes can prove to be less so.

   When a “custody” dispute arises, whether by divorce or family support or paternity action, there is a temptation to refer to everything related to a child’s care as “custody.” However, Wisconsin law (and by extension family court judges) addresses three main issues regarding children’s care: legal custody, physical placement, and child support. 

   The first term to understand is legal custody. While people often use the term “custody” to refer to the whole family court process, the law defines legal custody in a somewhat narrow way. Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility of a perso ...

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