Wisconsin Grandparent’s Visitation Rights

In Wisconsin, grandparents have visitation rights in some cases. Wis. Stats. Sec. 767.43 provides for reasonable visitation for grandparents, great-grandparents or grandparent rights shutterstock_125285087other persons who have maintained a parent-like relationship with the child.

Wis. Stats. Sec. 54.56 provides for grandparent’s visitation when one or both of the child’s parents have died.  Grandparents may petition for visitation even if the surviving parent is married. The adoption of a child of a deceased parent does not terminate grandparent’s visitation rights of the parents of the deceased.

A special grandparent’s visitation statute, Wis. Stat. Sec. 767.43(3),  pertains to non-marital children. This provision does not require a parent-like relationship for determination that a grandparent has a right to visitation.  Instead the grandparent must have maintained a relationship with the child or attempted a relationship with the child but was prevented from doing so by the custodial parent. The best interests of the child applies. There must also be no question of paternity of the child and a finding that the grandparent will abide by decisions made by the child’s parents concerning the child’s “physical, emotional, educational or spiritual welfare.”

Wis. Stats. Sec. 48.925 applies in the case of adoption of a child by a stepparent or other relative. Grandparents may have the right to visitation under some limited circumstances. The court must find that the grandparents maintained a relationship, within two years prior to the filing of the petition, that visitation is in the best interests of the child, that the grandparents will not undermine the relationship between the child and either parent and that the grandparents will abide by decisions made by the child’s parents concerning the child’s “physical, emotional, educational or spiritual welfare.”

Notwithstanding the statutes identified above, the United States Supreme Court and Wisconsin Courts maintain a high standard of parental rights before allocating visitation to grandparents. Wisconsin does not recognize grandparent’s visitation rights unless an action effecting the family, including divorce, legal separation, paternity is pending. If a couple are married, with no action effecting the family filed, courts will honor the parents’ rights to make decisions relative to the children, including the decision whether or not the child should see his or her grandparents. The United States Supreme Court, in the case of Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 100 S.Ct. 2054 (2000) , determined that court’s must apply the presumption that a parent, married or unmarried, is fit to determine whether grandparent’s visitation is in the best interests of the child. As a result, if both parents, whether married to each other or not, determine that grandparent’s visitation is not in the best interests of the children, the court is not going to award grandparent’s visitation, except under exceptional circumstances.

In order for grandparents to exercise their grandparent’s rights, it is necessary to document the relationship they maintain with their grandchildren. Photographs, lists of activities, witnesses, gifts from the children, cards, children’s drawings, videos, etc., can support the relationship between grandparent and grandchild. It is important to consult with an attorney experienced in the area of grandparent’s rights in order to know your rights and effectively enforce those rights in Wisconsin. The grandparent’s rights attorneys of Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C. are top-rated, recognized family law attorneys experienced in obtaining Wisconsin grandparent’s visitation rights.