Parental rights: can my child's mother move out of state with him?

My question is about Wisconsin law pertaining to paternal rights when a never-married couple has a child and the mother wants to move the child out of state. In this case, the father is listed on the birth certificate and has taken an active (50/50) role in parenting and financial responsibility for the 2-year-old child. Is there anything the father can do to prevent the mother from uprooting his child from a close and caring family? Do grandparent’s rights exist in Wisconsin in a situation like this?

According to family law attorney Maureen Kinney, there is a Wisconsin statute that states that if the court grants periods of placement to more than one parent that the court must order the parents with legal custody and placement rights to provide to the other parent at least 60 days notice if he/she wants to move out of state or more than 150 miles away. The statute then sets up a procedure to follow regarding the parent who may want to object to the move and how to resolve the dilemma.

In this case there might not actually be a court order for paternity that gives both parents placement rights if the only legal document is the birth certificate. So this parent would need to petition the court to establish his/her placement rights and then activate this provision regarding the move. The non-moving parent can also ask to have the primary placement of the child transferred to him/her at this time if the other parent moves.

The objecting parent needs to move quickly before the parent and child move, said Kinney. Once the move happens it is difficult to unravel. He/she might not be able to prevent the move but there can be orders for specific periods of placement back in Wisconsin, and since the child is not in school they could be for longer periods of time.

Grandparent rights are very fact specific depending upon how much time the grandparent has spent with the child. For example, does the grandparent have a parent-like relationship with the child (grandparent raising the child)? If both parents are actively involved with the child usually the grandparents would see the grandchild when their child has placement time. Specific time just for the grandparent would depend on the facts, such as whether there is an estrangement now between the grandparents and their child so the grandparents can't see the grandchild on their child's time.

For more information about family law in Wisconsin, call Maureen Kinney at (608) 784-5678.

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