The Basics of Paternity Law in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, paternity law refers to the different statutes that relate to establishing a man’s legal relationship with his child. While the parent-child connection may seem self-evident, showing that you are a child’s legally recognized father can be complicated if you are unfamiliar with the available mechanisms and processes.
Wisconsin Presumed Paternity
In Wisconsin, a man who is married to the mother of a child at the time of birth is legally presumed to be the father. A man will also be the presumed father under the law if he and the child’s “mother got married after the child was born, but they had a relationship with each other when the child was conceived, and no other man has been legally determined to be the father, and the child was not born while she was married to someone else.”
Parents can sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement when the baby is born attesting to the father's parentage. This happens when parents are not married to one another but wish to establish paternity legally. Once both parents sign the form and it is sent to the state registrar, the father's name will be added to the child's birth certificate, and he can be recognized as the legal father. Under the law, this document can be rescinded within 60 days by either party.
If parents get married after their child is born, they can sign a notarized Acknowledgment of Marital Child form that will be mailed to the proper authority to add the father to the birth certificate. These forms can be obtained at local vital statistics and child support offices.
In Wisconsin, any of the following people can bring action or file a motion to establish paternity of a child: the child, the child’s biological mother, a male claiming to be the child’s father, certain presumed fathers, someone with legal or physical custody of the child, a guardian ad litem appointed to the child under specific statutory provisions, the State of Wisconsin, grandparents, and other specific individuals.
A paternity case will be filed in the county in which the child or the alleged father resides or is found or, if the father is deceased, in which proceedings for probate of his estate have been or could be commenced. Once the case begins, a court hearing can be scheduled where the parties can put on their evidence of paternity. An alleged father, or another party can request DNA testing to determine his paternity. If the tests are conclusive, he will be adjudicated to be the child’s father.
Why Establish Paternity?
When you establish paternity, you create a legal relationship with your child, including the right to petition for custody, visitation, and support. If you and the mother are in a relationship and later separate, you will be able to begin exercising your legal rights. If you are no longer together, you can set up support, decision-making, and placement time.
There can be the situation where a man believes he is a child’s father and learns that someone else is the parent. Under these circumstances, if the father signed a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, the law allows him to file a petition seeking to void the document because it was made due to fraud or mistake of fact. The petitioner can also make the same request if he signed under duress. When a married father or father who signed an Acknowledgment of a Marital Child is in the same position, he may want to pursue legal remedies. In any of these situations, it is vital to consult with an experienced Wisconsin family law attorney to assess your case and options.
Attorney Karyn Youso has experience helping clients with paternity issues and can assist you in examining the facts and circumstances of your situation and determining your next steps. Contact First Look Family Law today.