Grandparents, stepparents, uncles, aunts, and other third parties who commonly play important roles in a child’s lives don’t have the same rights as parents. In fact, many wonder if their role in the child’s life gives them the right to exercise placement time.
The short answer to this question is “no.” In Wisconsin, physical place is defined as the time a parent has their child with them and under their care. Because the third parties mentioned above are not parents, they are not legally allowed to exercise placement or serve as a substitute during the appointed parenting placement time. This is true even if the third party is very close to the child or children in question.
Usually, though, these third parties can babysit or spend time with the child. This creates the question – where do courts draw the line?
The goal of the court is to ensure that when a child is left with a third party, it’s for no more than a few hours without a parent exercising the placement time they have been assigned. For example, parents can ask a family member to watch their child for several hours or during the day while they work during their assigned placement time.
However, it is not acceptable for the same parent to leave their child or children with a family member for days at a time or several weeks and allow them to use the assigned placement time so you can move to another state or go on a vacation. If you do this, then it may be grounds for a petition to be filed to enforce placement action or the modification of an existing placement motion.
The courts offer a remedy for times with parents aren’t exercising their placement and having someone else exercise their placement time on their behalf. According to Wisconsin statutes, a court has the right to modify any physical placement order if it discovers that the parent unreasonably and repeatedly failed to exercise their periods of physical placement. This is often called the “use it or lose it” statute. If you fail to exercise your placement time, it may be grounds to have another parent modify the schedule to be in their favor.
If you are in a situation where there is a third party who is exercising placement time for your child, you can work with one of our attornies to get the resolution that best suits your needs.