Child custody and placement: what are father's rights?

My husband has visitation rights every other weekend with his daughter. The mother of the child has stopped letting him or his parents get her. The mother wants my husband to call her, but he won’t because she is always causing trouble. It’s so bad that his parents have been picking up his daughter on his weekends to avoid conflict with the mother.

The mother also is living with a man that she is not married to and according to the court order she shouldn't be. The mother is also talking about moving his daughter out of state so she can be with her live-in boyfriend. What rights does my husband have? He pays his child support on time. Does he have to call the mother?

"If your husband has a Wisconsin order and is not allowed the placement rights specified, that’s a violation of the court order and the court could find the mother in contempt," says Ellen Frantz, a family law attorney with Johns, Flaherty & Collins. "If needed, you can ask the family court to clarify who can pick up and drop off the child."

Nevertheless, Frantz recommends your husband try to communicate with the mother. If the conversation goes poorly, he should still be polite but end the call. "Courts are always interested in the attempts you’ve made to be the reasonable person," says Frantz.

Generally, court orders do not specify whether parents can have another person living in the house. Sometimes parents will agree to that language, making it part of the order, but courts don’t typically legislate morality issues. If your court order specifies no live-in partners, you can ask the court to intervene.

Finally, Wisconsin law prohibits parents from relocating with a child out of state or more than 150 miles away without permission from the other parent or a court order, says Frantz. "That doesn’t necessarily stop them from leaving, but they would be violating the law if they didn’t follow the process. Your husband would need to alert the court to his objections."

For more information about family law, contact Ellen Frantz at 608-784-5678

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