How to File for Sole Custody in Wisconsin if You Are Unmarried

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Wisconsin child custody law presumes that joint legal and/or physical custody is in the best interest of your children. Joint custody involves you and the other parent sharing custody, regardless of whether you’re divorced or never married.

Wisconsin, however, doesn’t rule out granting sole custody to one parent as long as it is in the best interest of the child. Thus, to obtain sole custody of your child, you have to provide your local Wisconsin’s family court judge with cause to side with you.

Determine the type of sole custody you want. With sole physical custody, you determine where your child lives. Sole legal custody allows you to make decisions about your child’s future such as medical care, schooling, daycare and religious affiliation.

Specify your living arrangements and your work schedule. To obtain sole custody, you have to prove you have a suitable place that can accommodate full custody of your child, such as an apartment with at least two bedrooms. You also have to show how you plan to take of your child when you’re at work, with day care or babysitter, for instance.

Spend time with your child. If your child isn’t already in your custody, spend quality time with her to establish a relationship.

Gather evidence that the other parent is unsuitable for custody. The court needs sufficient evidence, such as drug use, child abuse or domestic abuse on the part of the other parent. Supply proof, like records of prior convictions or tangible evidence of wrongdoing, as the court won’t simply accept your word.

Discuss obtaining sole custody with the other parent, if you can. You may be able to avoid going to court if the other parent agrees to give you sole custody. Negotiate with the other parent. Suggest “hybrid” legal custody, in which, for instance, you have sole physical custody, but share legal custody.

File a sole custody petition in court if the other parent doesn’t agree to give you sole custody. During the court hearing, you, the other parent, witnesses and your child may have to testify.


  • The court considers different factors when granting sole custody. For instance, the court investigates if either parent has taken an active role in raising the child. The court also looks for any conditions that prevent a parent from sharing custody, such as a drug problem.


  • Even though a court may grant you sole custody, the other parent usually retains parent visitation rights. The only time the court won’t order visitation is if spending time with the other parent would endanger your child’s emotional or physical health.


About the Author

Demetrius Sewell is an experienced journalist who, since 2008, has been a contributing writer to such websites as Internet Brands and print publications such as "Cinci Pulse." Sewell specializes in writing news and feature articles on health, law and finance. She has a master's degree in English.

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