Paternity is the legal recognition of a father to his children. For individuals who are already involved as fathers to their children, being legally recognized as a father may not seem important, but the truth is, establishing paternity can be critical to many important life decisions.
For fathers, establishing paternity is the essential first step towards obtaining certain legal rights. Paternity is required before any father may petition for custody of placement of a child. Fathers who have obtained legal custody may make decisions about the following:
- Healthcare — Fathers with legal custody are able to make decisions about the healthcare of a child. This can be vital if your child is injured and there are no other legal guardians present to make important life decisions.
- Education — The ability to participate in decisions about education are dependent on a paternity designation and legal custody. Even the right to pick up a child from school might depend on being designated as a parent.
- Religion — Fathers with legal custody have the rights to make decisions about the religious upbringing of a child.
Another reason to establish paternity is the right to inherit. A child may be ineligible to inherit from his father’s estate unless the father has been legally recognized as such.
Paternity is often associated with child support obligations and contribution for expenses. The truth is that either parent has the right to request these things.
Without a paternity, fathers are left without a legal voice for their children. Often the need for this comes up quickly and unexpectedly. Do not get caught unprepared.
How can I establish paternity?
There are three ways paternity can be established in Wisconsin:
1. Premarital presumption — Any child born while a couple is marriage is presumed to be a child of the marriage. This is known as the premarital presumption. Husbands may have a paternity test done if they wish to challenge their status as legal father of a child.
2. Voluntary acknowledgement — When a child is born to parents who are not married, a father may sign an acknowledgement form.
3. Court order — If paternity is disputed by either the father or the mother, a court may order genetic testing of both the child and the disputed father.
Anyone with questions about paternity in Milwaukee should speak with a skilled family law attorney for guidance on how to proceed.