An experienced Menomonee Falls paternity attorney can provide you with legal advice and representation in such matters. At Karp & Iancu, S.C., we assist clients looking to establish or contest paternity. We can walk you through the legal process, explain your rights and obligations, and work to obtain the most favorable outcome for you and your family.
How Can You Establish Legal Paternity in Wisconsin?
There are four basic ways to establish legal paternity in Wisconsin:
- Both parents sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form after the baby is born.
- A judge issues an order declaring paternity following a court hearing.
- A county child support agency requires the mother, child, and possible father to submit to genetic testing, and that test shows at least a 99-percent probability of paternity.
- The mother and father marry after the child is born and both parents sign an Acknowledgment of Marital Child form.
The one time that a father does not have to take any formal legal action to establish paternity is if they are married to the mother when the child is born. By law, the mother’s husband is presumed to be the father. If another man wishes to contest and establish their own paternity over the child, however, that would require separate legal action to overcome the presumption.
How Does a Wisconsin Court Decide Paternity?
Under Wisconsin law, a legal action to establish paternity may take place anytime before the child reaches the age of 19. But it is generally a good idea to initiate a legal proceeding as soon as possible after the child is born. This deadline applies regardless of whether the person bringing the action is the mother, potential father, or even a child support agency looking to establish the father’s financial obligations.
In cases where the mother or child support agency has brought the action, the potential father can simply acknowledge paternity. At that point the court will decide the father’s rights and responsibilities under the law, including custody, placement, and child support. If the potential father denies paternity, the court will hear evidence and likely order genetic testing. This process can take several weeks to complete. If the testing shows the man named in the paternity action is not the child’s father, that is the end of the case. If the testing shows a probability of fatherhood, the potential father can admit paternity at that point or challenge the test results.
It is important to note that once someone is legally established as a child’s father, they are expected to provide financial support for that child. Wisconsin law contains a series of child support guidelines for the court to follow in establishing the amount of such obligations. In broad terms, child support is based on a percentage of the father’s income and the number of children he needs to support.
At the same time, a father also has the right to seek custody or placement with their child. Custody in this context refers to a parent’s ability to make certain decisions about their child’s life, while placement refers to how much time the child will spend living with each parent. Wisconsin courts generally favor making sure a child has a positive relationship with both parents. So it is often in a potential father’s interest to establish paternity if they want to have a legal say in their child’s life.