A parent-child relationship can suffer if paternity is not established soon after birth. Unmarried mothers do not receive child support and unmarried fathers may not have any legal rights to their child. Further, until a parent commences a paternity action, no orders regarding legal custody, physical placement, child support, health insurance coverage, payment of uninsured expenses, and allocation of the tax dependency exemption will be entered.

When Can Paternity be Established?

Paternity can be established any time after the child is born.

How to Establish Paternity

The procedure for establishing paternity varies on the following factors: Whether the mother is legally married. Whether the father signed and filed a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form. Whether a court action has been filed. If the mother is married when the child is born, Wisconsin presumes that her husband is the legal father of the unborn child. Wis. Stat. sec. 891.41. If a mother and father agree on the identity of the father, they may sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form after the baby is born. Once this form is completed and mailed to the Vital Records, the father’s name will be added to the birth certificate. The father will be deemed to be the legal father, but this, alone, does not provide orders regarding legal custody, physical placement, and child support. If no Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form is signed, a parent must file a court action to establish paternity. At the initial hearing, either party may request a genetic test to establish parentage.

Why Do You Need to Establish Paternity?

For a father, commencing a paternity action establishes your legal rights to your child. Once the court finds you are the legal father of your child, orders regarding legal custody, physical placement, child support, health insurance, uninsured expenses, and allocation of the tax dependency exemption are entered. Further, both parties are provided notice that neither parent can establish the minor child’s legal residence at a distance of 100 miles or more from the other parent absent a court order or agreement. See Wis. Stat. sec. 767.481 regarding the Change of Residence of Child for more information on removal actions. For a mother, it is imperative to establish paternity to receive child support. Fathers have no legal obligation to pay child support until a court orders him to do so. Paternity actions can be very complex under Wisconsin law, regardless of whether you go to court to establish legal parental rights or sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form. Since these legal proceedings involve complicated laws and procedural rules, it is essential to have an experienced paternity lawyer by your side. At Heather L. Nelson Law, S.C., we provide strategic legal assistance, present evidence on your behalf, and represent your interests in court.