One of the most difficult aspects of a divorce involving children is navigating the complexity of requiring two parents who no longer get along but are required to make decisions about their children together. While courts want both parents to be as involved as possible in their child’s life, as that is usually in the best interest of the child, they also want to ensure that the parents’ disagreements over issues don’t interfere with the child’s future or prevent important decisions from being made. In order to avoid this problem, courts will sometimes grant one parent more authority or control than the other in order to allow decisions to be made in an expeditious fashion.
In a recent Wisconsin divorce case, the court dealt with this kind of an issue in reviewing a divorce appeal. In In Re Marriage of Robert Corey Burgraff v. Amanda June Burgraff, the court reviewed a divorce decision for one Wisconsin family. They were married in 2012 and had one child. Less than two years after getting married, the wife decided she wanted to end the marriage and moved from Wisconsin to Kentucky. She stayed in Kentucky while her husband stayed in Wisconsin. In January 2015, the husband filed for divorce. The lower court decided to award joint custody to the two parties, with the child to live with the husband during the school year and then with the wife during the summers because the child would begin kindergarten in Wisconsin the next year. Additionally, the court awarded the parents joint legal custody over their child’s education, but decided that the husband would have impasse authority over educational decisions, which meant that if the two parents could not decide about educational opportunities or decision, the husband had the right to the final say. After this ruling was finalized, the wife appealed.
On appeal, the wife argued that awarding the husband impasse authority as to educational decisions was tantamount to awarding him sole legal custody over their child as to educational issues and, under Wisconsin law, in order to do so, the court had to make specific findings to this effect, which it did not actually do. Thus, the wife argued that the court’s ruling was improper.