Grandparents do not have legal rights to their grandchildren unless a Petition is filed with the Court and visitation is granted by the Court.

Wis. Stat. §767.43(3) Visitation rights of certain persons, Special Grandparent Provision states that the Court may grant reasonable visitation rights if the child’s parents have notice of the hearing and six (6) elements are met.

Specifically, grandparents must prove that the child is a non-marital child and the parents were never married; paternity is established if the grandparent(s) is a parent of the child’s father, the child is not adopted; the grandparent maintained a relationship with the child or attempted to maintain a relationship but was prevented from doing so by a parent with custody; the grandparent is not likely to act in a manner that is contrary to the decision made by a parent with custody that are related to the child’s physical, emotional, education, or spiritual welfare; and lastly, the visitation is in the child’s best interests.

The grandparent visitation statute does not require the grandparents to prove that the child’s parent is unfit or a bad parent.  Also, the grandparent does not have to prove a child-parent relationship.

The Court must consider the presumption that the parents are making a decision regarding grandparent visitation that is in the best interests of the child.  However, the Court must make its own decision about what is in the child’s best interests after considering the evidence presented.  The Court may disagree with the parents’ decision to prohibit the grandparents to see or visit the grandchild, and ultimately award grandparent visitation rights.

If the Court grants grandparent visitation rights, the visitation may include overnights with the grandchild to take place in the grandparent’s home.

If the six (6) elements mentioned above cannot be met, there may be other provisions that apply.  Wis. Stat. §747.43(1) Visitation Rights of certain persons, states that upon petition by a grandparent, great-grandparent, stepparent or person who has maintained a relationship similar to a parent-child relationship with the child, the Court may grant reasonable visitation rights to that person if the parents have notice of the hearing and if the Court determines that visitation is in the best interest of the child.

Further, pursuant to Wis. Stat. §54.56 Visitation by a Minor’s Grandparents and Step-parents, if one (1) or both parents of a minor child are deceased and the minor child is in the custody of the surviving parent or any other person, a grandparent or stepparent of the minor child may petition for visitation privileges whether or not the person with custody is married.  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 child.  Whenever possible, the Court shall consider the minor child’s wishes.