Determining the Best Interests of the Child - Wisconsin

Date: September 2023

Guiding Principles

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.01

To recognize that children have certain basic needs that must be provided, including the need for adequate food, clothing, and shelter; the need to be free from physical, sexual, or emotional injury or exploitation; the need to develop physically, mentally, and emotionally to their potential; and the need for a safe and permanent family. It is further recognized that, under certain circumstances, to ensure that the needs of a child are provided, the court may determine that it is in the best interests of the child for them to be removed from their parents, consistent with any applicable law relating to the rights of parents.

Best Interests Factors

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.426

The best interests of the child shall be the prevailing factor considered by the court in determining the disposition of all proceedings concerning termination of parental rights. In considering the best interests of the child under this section, the court shall consider, but not be limited to, the following:

  • The likelihood of the child's adoption after termination of the parent's parental rights 
  • The age and health of the child, both at the time of the disposition, and, if applicable, at the time the child was removed from the home
  • Whether the child has substantial relationships with the parent or other family members and whether it would be harmful to the child to sever these relationships
  • The wishes of the child
  • The duration of the separation of the parent from the child
  • Whether the child will be able to enter into a more stable and permanent family relationship as a result of the termination of the parent's parental rights, taking into account the conditions of the child's current placement, the likelihood of future placements, and the results of prior placements

Other Considerations

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.01

In Indian child custody proceedings, the best interests of the Indian child shall be determined in accordance with the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the policy specified in this section. It is the policy of this State for courts and agencies responsible for child welfare to do all the following:

  • Cooperate fully with Indian Tribes to ensure that ICWA is enforced in this State
  • Protect the best interests of Indian children and promote the stability and security of Indian Tribes and families by doing all the following:
    • Establishing minimum standards for the removal of Indian children from their families and placing those children in out-of-home care placements, preadoptive placements, or adoptive placements that will reflect the unique value of Indian culture
    • Using practices, in accordance with ICWA, this section, and other applicable law, which are designed to prevent the voluntary or involuntary out-of-home care placement of Indian children and, when an out-of-home care placement, adoptive placement, or preadoptive placement is necessary, placing an Indian child in a placement that reflects the unique values of the Indian child's Tribal culture and that is best able to assist the Indian child in establishing, developing, and maintaining a political, cultural, and social relationship with the Indian child's Tribe and Tribal community