WI: Stepparent Does Not Stand in Non-Custodial Spouse Parent’s Shoes With Regard to Visitation Rights

Wisconsin ex-husband, Father, is deployed in military. Father “assigns” his visitation time to his new wife, Stepmother.

Ex-Wife and Mother refuses to allow Stepmother to have Father’s full extended summer visitation period. But Stepmother is willing to allow Stepmother some visitation in Father’s absence.

Wisconsin actually has a statute allowing a court to grant “reasonable” visitation rights to a stepparent under the right circumstances.

Under that statute, the trial court awarded the Stepmother Father’s full extended summer visitation.

On appeal, the ruling was reversed because a fit custodial parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning his or her child, and custodial visitation rights are not transferrable. There was no showing of special circumstances entitling Stepmother to visitation rights under the statute.

This ruling is consistent with the line of grandparent visitation cases in various states since a landmark US Supreme Court case in 2000.

Put another way, timesharing is for the parent, not the stepparent (or grandparent). Nonetheless, disputes over children being left with stepparents during visitation are incredibly common.

Read more in this Wisconsin Law Journal case digest.