Understanding Paternity In Wisconsin

Paternity is the legal relationship between a father and his children when he is not married to the mother. It affects all legal aspects of that relationship, including child support as well as child custody and placement (visitation). For example, if a father has not been established as the legal father, he has no custodial or placement (visitation) rights. However, he also has no obligation to pay child support.

Mothers seeking child support from a father must make sure paternity is established before they can pursue contribution on their child's behalf.

Fathers or mothers interested in exercising their rights and responsibilities as parents or individuals looking to contest or establish paternity should speak to the experienced paternity lawyers at Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC. Our team of dedicated attorneys are skilled problem-solvers who are passionate about representing the interests of their clients.

What Is Needed To Establish Paternity In Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, paternity can be established in different ways:

  • Marital presumption of paternity — If the couple is married at the time the child is born, the husband is legally assumed to be the father. In many cases, the marital presumption can be overcome if DNA or another form of genetic testing shows another man has a 99 percent chance of being the father.
  • Voluntary acknowledgment of paternity — If the couple is not married, the father can complete and submit a voluntary paternity acknowledgment form at the time of the child's birth. A court hearing is still required to legally establish paternity and make court orders with regards to the child. However, if the father has signed this form, he is presumed to be the father. Please note: It is important to understand however, that by signing this form, a father does not have any custodial or placement rights nor does he have any child support obligation. A court hearing must be held to determine these issues.
  • Genetic testing — Genetic testing is the study of genetic markers contained in body samples such as hair, saliva, blood, skin and other tissue to determine the probability of a genetic relationship between two people. If the father denies or has doubts that the child is his, the court can order mandatory genetic testing. If there is any doubt regarding paternity, genetic testing is always a good idea.

When Does A Father Gain Rights To His Child?

A father will gain enforceable rights to pursue custody and placement once a court has legally found him to be the father (this is called adjudication). In Wisconsin, an unmarried father must be adjudicated before he has enforceable rights to his children.

Once adjudicated as a father, courts will order terms, including the custody, placement and support of a child. A court hearing is necessary to establish terms such as placement, custody and child support.

What Is Gained By Establishing Paternity?

Paternity confers rights and obligations between the father and the child. Once paternity is established, either parent can petition for custody and placement (visitation). If joint legal custody is awarded, the father will be able to participate in decisions about the child's education, religion and health.

Paternity also creates obligations for both parents. Either parent can ask the court to order child support, to include the child on his/her health insurance plan and to pay expenses for the child such as medical bills, child care or birth expenses.

After paternity has been established, a child can also inherit from the father and vice-versa.

The Role Of The Guardian Ad Litem

In cases where paternity is being challenged or there is a custody or placement dispute, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of any minor children. The guardian ad litem will make recommendations as to what is in the best interests of the child.

At Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC, we practice family law exclusively and are highly experienced with paternity issues. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys, contact us at (414) 939-0529.

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