2019 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations
Chapter 54. Guardianships and conservatorships.
54.56 Visitation by a minor's grandparents and stepparents.

Universal Citation: WI Stat § 54.56 (2019)

54.56 Visitation by a minor's grandparents and stepparents.

(1) In this section, “stepparent" means the surviving spouse of a deceased parent of a minor, whether or not the surviving spouse has remarried.

(2) If one or both parents of a minor are deceased and the minor is in the custody of the surviving parent or any other person, a grandparent or stepparent of the minor may petition for visitation privileges with respect to the minor, whether or not the person with custody is married. The grandparent or stepparent may file the petition in a guardianship or temporary guardianship proceeding under this chapter that affects the minor or may file the petition to commence an independent action under this chapter. Except as provided in sub. (3m), the court may grant reasonable visitation privileges to the grandparent or stepparent if the surviving parent or other person who has custody of the minor has notice of the hearing and if the court determines that visitation is in the best interest of the minor.

(3) Whenever possible, in making a determination under sub. (2), the court shall consider the wishes of the minor.

(3m)

(a) Except as provided in par. (b), the court may not grant visitation privileges to a grandparent or stepparent under this section if the grandparent or stepparent has been convicted under s. 940.01 of the first-degree intentional homicide, or under s. 940.05 of the 2nd-degree intentional homicide, of a parent of the minor, and the conviction has not been reversed, set aside or vacated.

(b) Paragraph (a) does not apply if the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that the visitation would be in the best interests of the minor. The court shall consider the wishes of the minor in making the determination.

(4) The court may issue any necessary order to enforce a visitation order that is granted under this section, and may from time to time modify the visitation privileges or enforcement order for good cause shown.

(4m)

(a) If a grandparent or stepparent granted visitation privileges with respect to a minor under this section is convicted under s. 940.01 of the first-degree intentional homicide, or under s. 940.05 of the 2nd-degree intentional homicide, of a parent of the minor, and the conviction has not been reversed, set aside or vacated, the court shall modify the visitation order by denying visitation with the minor upon petition, motion or order to show cause by a person having custody of the minor, or upon the court's own motion, and upon notice to the grandparent or stepparent granted visitation privileges.

(b) Paragraph (a) does not apply if the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that the visitation would be in the best interests of the minor. The court shall consider the wishes of the minor in making the determination.

(5) This section applies to every minor in this state whose parent or parents are deceased, regardless of the date of death of the parent or parents.

History: 1975 c. 122; 1995 a. 38; 1999 a. 9; 2005 a. 387 s. 373; Stats. 2005 s. 54.56.

The adoption of a child of a deceased parent does not terminate the decedent's parents' grandparental visitation rights under s. 880.155 [now this section]. Grandparental Visitation of C.G.F., 168 Wis. 2d 62, 483 N.W.2d 803 (1992).

Section 767.24 (5) [now s. 767.41 (5) (am)] sets out an appropriate standard for determining the best interests of a child under this section. The court did not exceed its authority under this section or violate a parent's constitutional rights to raise a child by ordering grandparent visitation, nor did the court violate this section by ordering a guardian ad litem, mediation, and psychological evaluations. The court was not authorized by this section to order psychotherapeutic treatment that was arguably in the child's best interests but outside the scope of visitation. F.R. v. T.B., 225 Wis. 2d 628, 593 N.W.2d 840 (Ct. App. 1999), 98-0819.

Grandparent Visitation Rights. Rothstein. Wis. Law. Nov. 1992.

The Effect of C.G.F. and Section 48.925 on Grandparental Visitation Petitions. Hughes. Wis. Law. Nov. 1992.

NOTE: The above annotations relate to guardianships under ch. 880, stats., prior to the revision of and renumbering of that chapter to ch. 54 by 2005 Wis. Act 387.

Under Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, the due process clause prevents a court from starting with a clean slate when assessing whether grandparent visitation is in the best interests of the child. Within the best interests framework, the court must afford a parent's decision special weight by applying a rebuttable presumption that the fit parent's decision regarding grandparent visitation is in the best interest of the child. It is up to the party advocating for nonparental visitation to rebut the presumption by presenting evidence that the offer is not in the child's best interests. Martin L. v. Julie R. L., 2007 WI App 37, 299 Wis. 2d 768, 731 N.W.2d 288, 06-0199.

This section is constitutional and does not violate the equal protection clause. Rick v. Opichka, 2010 WI App 23, 2010 WI App 167, 780 N.W.2d 159, 09-0040.

The award of overnights and a week during the summer in a grandparent visitation order was not contrary to law for being akin to a physical placement award found in divorce cases. There is no difference between the quantity of “physical placement" as that term is used in s. 767.001 (5) and the quantity of “visitation" as that word is used in this section. The proper amount of that time is a decision made by the family court in the best interests of the children. The quantity of time ordered does not depend on whether it is a visitation order or a physical placement order. Rick v. Opichka, 2010 WI App 23, 323 Wis. 2d 510, 780 N.W.2d 159, 09-0040.

When children visit their grandparents and stay with them as a guest, the grandparents have the responsibility to make routine daily decisions regarding the child's care but may not make any decisions inconsistent with the major decisions made by a person having legal custody. The same is true of a parent who does not have joint legal custody, but does have a right to physical placement. In both instances, the same rules apply: routine daily decisions may be made, but nothing greater. Rick v. Opichka, 2010 WI App 23, 323 Wis. 2d 510, 780 N.W.2d 159, 09-0040.

Disclaimer: These codes may not be the most recent version. Wisconsin may have more current or accurate information. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or the information linked to on the state site. Please check official sources.