The Wisconsin statute on presumption of paternity only applies when a child is born to married parents, so mothers and fathers may need to pursue other options for establishing paternity.
Considering the complexities and how the laws impact the parent-child bond, retaining knowledgeable legal counsel is critical for protecting your parental rights. Whether you are going through divorce or facing paternity questions, you can trust our team at Karp & Iancu, S.C. to advocate on your behalf. We have decades of experience representing parents in connection with Wisconsin family law cases, so we will prioritize your needs. Please contact our firm today to schedule a no-cost consultation with one of our Kenosha parental rights attorneys. A legal summary may also be useful.
Basics of Wisconsin Paternity Laws:
Parental rights stem from paternity, which is the legal status of being a person’s father. When parents are married, these rights arise out of legal presumption. Under state law, a child conceived or born to the marital relationship are considered to be the offspring of the spouses. This legal presumption can be rebutted by evidence to the contrary.
Unmarried parents must go through other routes to establish paternity between the father and the child:
- Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP): When unmarried parents agree on the identity of their child’s father, they can sign this document to make parentage effective. The VAP can be signed at the hospital when the baby is born.
- Paternity Lawsuit: Court action is necessary to establish parentage when unmarried parents do not agree on the natural father. Mothers and fathers both have standing to file a petition to establish paternity, and DNA evidence via genetic testing is important evidence in the case.
- Legitimation: Even if parents are not married at the child’s birth, they can simplify paternity by getting married at a later date. They must sign an Acknowledgement of Marital Child, which provides the same rights as if the parents were married.
Comparing Maternal and Paternal Rights
Legal presumption, agreement, or litigation is how parental rights become legal and official, but paternity opens the door for additional rights and responsibilities. The issues can affect mothers and fathers differently depending on what legal proceedings are involved.
In a divorce case, parents have equal right to make important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. The child’s best interests are the focus in custody and visitation matters.
When paternity is in question, the mother will typically have priority with respect to parental rights and have sole custody. The father can gain the ability to make decisions and exercise parenting time after a court order on parentage is entered.
Child’s Best Interests
Wisconsin family laws prioritize how children are affected by legal proceedings, so the relevant statutes include statutory factors a court must consider when weighing parental rights. A judge will consider:
- The child’s age and development;
- The wishes of the parents;
- The wishes of the child, when appropriate;
- How well the parents can communicate and cooperate regarding custody;
- The child’s history and relationship with parents;
- The mental and physical health of all parties;
- Each parent’s history with parenting time;
- The presence or threat of domestic violence;
- Stability with the child’s placement;
- How well the child’ can adjust to a new home, school, religion, or community; and,
- Many other factors.
Understanding Parental Rights
Whether parentage attaches through the legal presumption from marriage or establishing paternity through the other methods described above, the rights of mothers and fathers are generally the same.
Custody and Visitation:
Custody is the power to participate in raising the child, such as having a say with education, religion, medical care, living arrangements, extracurricular activities, and more. The preference is for joint custody where parents share in decision making, but sole custody may be appropriate in the presence of violence or criminal activity.
Even when parents have joint custody, the child’s visitation time may be split. One parent will usually have a child support obligation to contribute to the costs of raising the child.
Enforcement, Modification, and Relocation:
Once an order has been entered regarding custody, visitation, and support, it has legal, binding effect. Mothers and fathers can act to enforce or modify as necessary, and there are requirements when a parent wants to move with a minor child.
Legal Help for Parents
From the above, you can see that there are two important legal implications when it comes to parental rights in Wisconsin: Establishing them and exercising them. At Karp & Iancu, S.C., our Kenosha parental rights lawyers can assist by:
- Advising you on child custody, visitation, and support laws;
- Consulting with you on objectives for parental rights;
- Preparing the VAP or Acknowledgement of Minor Child;
- Handling a paternity lawsuit to establish parentage; and,
- Helping you with parental rights issues in divorce.
We are ready to fight for your parental rights in any type of contested hearing. These cases are similar to a trial, so you will need solid documents, evidence, and witness testimony so support your position. Our lawyers will develop a solid legal strategy for litigation in any family law context.