Paternity is the Basis of Father’s Rights and Responsibilities in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, paternity is legal fatherhood. It is the fundamental basis of a man’s parental rights and parental responsibilities. A man who lacks paternity has no right to claim custody or parenting time with the child. Likewise, a man who lacks paternity has no legal responsibility to care for the child—meaning he cannot be required to pay child support.
An Overview of the Options for Establishing Paternity in Wisconsin
There is more than one way that a man can establish paternity for a child in Madison. As explained by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, “there are 4 ways to establish legal fatherhood” in our state. The options for establishing paternity in Wisconsin include:
- Marriage: A married couple does not have to take proactive steps for legal paternity to be established. In Wisconsin, a man who is married is the presumptive lawful father of his wife’s kid. This means that no forms need to be submitted nor are any other steps required.
- Voluntary Acknowledgement: Unmarried couples can also establish paternity without much complication. In Wisconsin, an unwed couple can submit a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form. As long as the form is signed by both parties (mother and father), it is sufficient to establish paternity. If there is no conflict over the child’s parentage, this is the best option for unmarried couples.
- Conclusive Genetic Testing: In 2020, a new law was passed in Wisconsin that created a presumption of paternity through administrative genetic testing. If there is a dispute over whether or not a man is the biological father of a child, genetic testing may be appropriate. A conclusive genetic DNA test can establish legal paternity in Wisconsin.
- Court Ruling: Finally, paternity can also be established via a court order in Wisconsin. In some high conflict cases, a paternity dispute may end up in court. It should be noted that this is now less common than resolving a paternity dispute at the administrative level through genetic testing.
Is There a Time Limit to Establish Paternity?
Technically speaking, a child’s parentage can be established at any time—including well into adulthood. That being said, legal paternity in Wisconsin should be established prior to a child’s 19th birthday. A man (or woman) can take action to establish paternity for a child any time before a child’s 19th birthday. In other words, it is still possible to establish paternity for an older child, including a teenager, in Wisconsin.
What Happens If One Party Refuses to Cooperate With a Paternity Test?
As noted previously, most paternity disputes in Wisconsin are resolved through genetic testing. The process is the most straightforward when both parties—the mother and the putative/alleged father—are willing to cooperate with the process. However, there are some circumstances in which a child’s mother or the alleged father may try to thwart genetic testing.
In Wisconsin, a child’s mother or a child’s putative father has the right to seek a court order for genetic DNA testing of a child. Parties cannot refuse to take a paternity test once a court order has been issued. If they still fail to cooperate with the process, they could be held in contempt of court. In Wisconsin, contempt of court can result in serious sanctions, including fines and imprisonment.
We Handle the Full Range of Paternity Cases in Madison, Wisconsin
As a full-service family law firm with a deep knowledge of Wisconsin’s paternity laws, our Madison attorneys handle all types of legal cases. Along with other types of paternity matters, our Madison family lawyers can help you with:
- Representation for Fathers in Paternity Cases: If you are a man seeking to establish paternity rights in Dane County, our Madison family lawyer can help. We will help you take action to prove paternity and take action to establish custody and placement rights.
- Representation for Mothers in Paternity Cases: We also represent mothers in paternity cases. If you are seeking to prove paternity to claim child support or going through any other family law matter, our Madison, WI parental rights attorney is here to help.
Ultimately, every paternity case involves its own unique set of facts and circumstances. No matter the situation you are dealing with, our Madison paternity lawyers are prepared to protect your parental rights and help you find the best solution.
How the Madison Paternity Lawyers at Karp & Iancu Can Help
Paternity cases can be complicated. At Karp & Iancu, S.C., we have the professional experience and legal skill to represent both mothers and fathers in the full range of paternity cases. No matter the situation you are dealing with, our family law team is here to help you find the best path forward. Among other things, our Madison paternity attorneys are prepared to:
- Hear your story, answer questions, and explain your legal options;
- Provide comprehensive legal guidance (custody, visitation, child support, etc); and
- Take whatever legal action is required to protect your rights and interests.