Stepparents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles are third parties who play pivotal roles in children’s lives – but does that mean that they can exercise placement time? The short answer is no. Physical placement is defined in Wisconsin as the time period in which a parent has their child with them under their care. Since third parties are not parents, they cannot exercise placement or be your substitute during that time, even if they are a third party who is near and dear to your child.
But most of the time, third parties can babysit and spend meaningful time with your child. So where do the courts draw the line? Courts want to ensure that when a child is left alone with a third party, it is for no longer than a few hours without one of the parents exercising their placement time. For example, it is generally acceptable to ask a family member to babysit your child for a few hours, or even a day, during your placement time when you are working. On the other hand, it is generally unacceptable to leave your child with that same family member for a days or weeks or let them “use your placement time” so that you can go on vacation or move to a different state. Doing so may be grounds for a petition to enforce placement action or even a modification of placement motion.
The courts provide a remedy for times when a parent isn’t fully exercising their placement and is having someone else exercise placement for them. Wisconsin statutes provide that a court can modify a physical placement order if it finds that a parent has “repeatedly and unreasonably failed to exercise periods of physical placement.” This is sometimes called the “use it or lose it” statute. Not exercising your placement time could be grounds for the other parent to modify a placement schedule in their favor.
If you are in a situation where a third party is exercising placement time of your child, please give us a call Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach at (414) 258-1644 to schedule a free initial consultation.