Paternity (FAQ)

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What Rights Does An Alleged Father Have During The Pregnancy Of The Mother?

Until paternity can be established either by a DNA test or an acknowledgment of paternity in a court-initiated paternity case, an alleged father has no rights to the child. For help establishing paternity, schedule a free initial office consultation with a lawyer at Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC. Call (414) 939-0529.

What Does "Adjudication" Mean And How Does An Alleged Father Become Adjudicated?

Adjudication can occur one of two ways:

  • If both the mother and alleged father are certain of the paternity of the child, then a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity may be signed. This document is presented at the hospital after the birth of the child. If the alleged father is not present at the birth, the document can be obtained by contacting Wisconsin Vital Records.
  • If one or both of the parties are unsure of the paternity of the child, then a DNA test should be conducted to confirm or exclude the alleged father as the legal father of the child.

Adjudication is the formal recognition of an alleged father as the legal father of a child born to unmarried parents. Prior to an adjudication, an alleged father has no rights to share custody and/or placement of a child.

How Does An Alleged Father Obtain Placement And Custody Rights To A Child?

Once a man is adjudicated as the legal father of a child, the court will order "terms" relating to the custody, placement and support of the child. Simply being adjudicated does not give a father any rights to custody or placement, nor does adjudication mandate the payment of child support.

The process of establishing custody, placement and support can be resolved by the agreement of the parties (stipulation) or a paternity action having been filed with the court. A judgment of paternity must be entered and approved by the court before a father has enforceable rights for custody and placement.

What Factors Will The Court Consider When Ordering Custody?

There is a presumption in Wisconsin statutes that parties should share joint legal custody of a child. Legal custody is the right to make legal decisions regarding a child. The court may order sole legal custody to one parent in cases of domestic abuse, or if the court determines that joint legal custody is not in a child's best interest.

What Factors Will The Court Consider In Determining Placement?

There are a number of factors that the court will consider when determining placement. The age of the child, distance the parents live from each other, work schedules, parents' ability to communicate, and best interest of the child are only some examples of what the court will consider when determining placement. A court will not automatically award primary placement to the mother simply because she is the mother.

The statute requires that the court maximize the amount of meaningful time each parent has with the child. This provision does not necessarily, however, require that the court order equal time. Please see our custody and placement FAQ's for additional information.

What If I Disagree With The Placement Schedule Ordered By The Court?

At the first hearing, if the parents cannot agree on a placement schedule, they will be ordered to participate in mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful, either a custody study and/or a guardian ad litem will be appointed. The guardian ad litem will complete an investigation and make a recommendation to the court as to what he/she believes to be in the best interest of the child. Please see our custody and placement FAQs.

Will Child Support Be Ordered?

Yes. Once a father is adjudicated, the obligation to support the child will be addressed by the court.

How Much Child Support Will I Have To Pay?

Please see our FAQs on child support.

Talk To An Attorney About Establishing/Challenging A Paternity Action

The attorneys at Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC, represent individuals seeking to establish paternity as well as challenging a paternity action. Because we have experience representing both sides, we are knowledgeable about how to effectively pursue these actions. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact our firm using our online client information form or call us directly at (414) 939-0529.