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Frequently Asked Questions About Paternity

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, an alleged father has no rights to the child.

What Does “Adjudication” Mean, And How Does An Alleged Father Become Adjudicated?

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 a child.

Adjudication can occur one of two ways:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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 or by a paternity action being filed and subsequently litigated 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 (rebuttable) presumption in Wisconsin’s statutes that parties should share joint legal custody of a child. Legal Custody is the right to make legal decisions regarding a child such as where they go to school, medical-related decisions (such as therapy), and religious upbringing, among other things. 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 require that the court order equal time – merely that the Court consider the specifics of the case and allocate placement appropriately. Please see our Custody and Placement FAQ’s for additional information.

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

Typically, the initial hearing, if the parents cannot agree on a placement schedule, they will be ordered to participate in mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful, then either a custody study will be ordered, 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.

Will Child Support Be Ordered?

Yes. Once a father is adjudicated, the obligation to support the child will be addressed by the court. This does not necessarily mean that the father will be the one paying the support, since child support orders depend on the placement schedule.

How Much Child Support Will I Have To Pay?

Please see our FAQs on child support.

For help with establishing paternity or responding to a paternity action filed by another individual, call us at (414) 258-1644 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC.