Wisconsin law addresses grandparent visitation rights in several different areas of the law. It specifically addresses visitation by a person who has maintained a relationship similar to a parent-child relationship, visitation by a grandparent who is the parent of a deceased parent and visitation in the case of stepparent adoption. The Wisconsin statutes were amended in 2005, and grandparents need to be sure that they are consulting the updated versions of the law. In addition to the statutes addressing these situations, several court cases have had an impact on grandparent visitation in the state of Wisconsin. An unusual provision of the Wisconsin statutes is that they specify that visitation cannot be granted to a person who has been convicted of homicide, although it is also provided that such a conviction can be ignored in the face of "clear and convincing evidence" that visitation is in the best interest of the child. In summary, grandparents wishing to file for visitation in the state of Wisconsin will almost certainly need comprehensive legal advice. The information here can provide only a broad outline of Wisconsin law. In addition, grandparents will need to document their relationship with their grandchildren as closely as possible. For more information, see "Safeguarding Your Grandparents Rights."
Wisconsin Statute 767.43, formerly 767.245, provides for "reasonable visitation rights" for grandparents, great-grandparents or other persons who have maintained a relationship with a child that is similar to a parent-child relationship. The court is directed to act in the best interest of the child and to consider the wishes of the child whenever possible. A special grandparent visitation provision pertains to "non-marital" children. This special provision does not require the presence of a parent-child relationship for a grandparent to win visitation. Instead, the grandparent must have maintained a relationship with the child or must have attempted a relationship with the child but been prevented from doing so by the child's custodial parent. In addition to considering the best interest of the child, the court must also be satisfied as to the paternity of the child and must also find that the grandparent will abide by decisions made by the child's parents concerning the child's "physical, emotional,educational or spiritual welfare." See full text of 767.43.
Wisconsin Statute 54.56, formerly 880.155, provides for grandparent visitation when one or both of the child's parents are deceased. Grandparents may petition for visitation even if the surviving parent or person with custody is married. The adoption of a child of a deceased parent does not terminate the grandparental visitation rights of the parents of the deceased. See full text of 54.56.
Wisconsin Statute 48.925 provides that in the case of the adoption of a child by a stepparent or other relative, "certain persons" have the right to request visitation. Those persons are relatives who have maintained a relationship similar to a parent-child relationship, a definition that includes some grandparents but excludes others. If a grandparent is included in this definition, the court must find that visitation is in the best interest of the child. In addition, the following findings must be made: that the petitioner will not undermine the relationship between the child and any parent or adoptive parent and that the grandparent will respect the decisions made by the child's parents concerning the child's "physical, emotional, educational or spiritual welfare." See full text of 48.925.
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