In addition to fostering and father-child bond, the child benefits through financial support, inheritance rights, Social Security coverage, medical insurance, and many others.
Establishing paternity carries a number of rights and obligations for parents, which is why working with skilled legal counsel is important for mothers and fathers. Our team at Karp & Iancu, S.C. represent parties on both sides of the question, and we are prepared to assist with all parentage options. Please contact us to set up a no-cost consultation right away. One of our Kenosha paternity attorneys can explain how Wisconsin laws work, but you can also read on for some important background information.
Overview of Paternity in Wisconsin
In short, paternity is the legal status of being someone’s father. The implications of establishing parentage include the rights to spend time with the child and participate in important decision making on how to raise the child, along with financial responsibilities and obligations regarding health care. The details are described below and are triggered when paternity is official. However, you should understand the different roles for a father as defined by law.
- Acknowledged Father: This is a person who agrees at birth that he is the biological father of the child and indicates acknowledgement of such by signing appropriate paperwork.
- Alleged Father: The mother may claim that a person is her child’s father, but no legal rights or responsibilities attach until paternity is established. In addition, a third party with an interest in paternity may identify a child’s alleged father, such as a state agency paying support to the mother.
- Putative Father: An individual is presumed to be the father via marriage to the mother, but this presumption can be rebutted by evidence to the contrary. When someone contests parentage that arises from the legal presumption, the person married to the mother is the putative father.
Note that adoptive fathers who have gone through the process are considered the legal parents of the adopted child, with all rights and responsibilities of a legal father.
Legal Recognition of Parentage
When a child’s parents are married at conception or upon birth, there is a legal presumption that he or she is the offspring of the spouses. For unmarried mothers and fathers, there are three approaches to establishing paternity under Wisconsin law:
- Legitimation: If the mother and father get married after the child’s birth, they can agree to parentage and sign an Acknowledgement of Marital Child. This results in the parents having the same rights and duties as if the child was born to the marriage.
- Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP): As mentioned, a person can become an acknowledged father by executing paperwork. The VAP can be completed at the hospital, and it must be signed by both mother and father.
- Paternity Lawsuit: Any interested party can file a lawsuit to have a court determine parentage, including the child, mother, alleged father, a government agency, and others designated by law. With these cases, genetic testing is the most important evidence for evaluating the DNA of the child and alleged father.
Implications of Establishing Paternity
Whether parentage becomes legal via agreement or through court action, the status confers upon fathers the same rights as mothers. Specifically:
- Once paternity is official, the court will enter an order regarding the child support obligation. The details are set by statute, but important factors are the gross incomes of each parent and the amount of time the child spends with each parent.
- After being recognized as the child’s legal father, a person has custody and visitation rights. The mother may have had sole custody prior to establishing parentage, but Wisconsin laws prefer a joint custody arrangement that allows the child to foster a relationship with both parents. Custody refers to decision making regarding the important issues involved with raising the child.
- Both parents have the right to enforce a judge’s order on child custody and visitation if the other interferes or does not comply with the terms set by the court. They can also request modification to custody or support based upon a material change in circumstances. A parent seeking to relocate with the child must get court permission before doing so.
What to Expect in the Paternity Process
Every case is different, but establishing parentage is generally a matter of whether the parties agree or must go to court. The implications of custody, visitation, support, and related issues become a focus after legal recognition of paternity. Still, our Kenosha paternity lawyers at Karp & Iancu, S.C. are prepared to serve your needs at every stage. We will:
- Consult with you regarding your objectives and state law on paternity;
- Advise you on the implications of signing a VAP;
- Assist with gathering evidence for a paternity lawsuit;
- File or defend a petition to establish paternity;
- Help with negotiations after establishing parentage, since there are advantages to working out custody and visitation by agreement;
- Explain legal remedies if you need to enforce or modify child custody or support; and,
- Handle all other essential tasks.