There is maternity, which is legal motherhood, and there is paternity, which is legal fatherhood. Both come with various rights and responsibilities. Parents retain these rights and responsibilities even if they are divorcing or have never been married. They may dispute custody, placement, and child support as part of a divorce or other legal proceeding.
Many parents will do what it takes to protect their parental rights. When you can’t come to any agreements, the team at Karp & Iancu, S.C. can help you with sorting out the difficulties. Contact our Wauwatosa parental rights attorneys today to learn more.
A mother has custody of her children just by giving birth to them. That’s because there is no dispute about who the mother is in these cases. A woman typically cannot give birth to another woman’s child except for cases of surrogacy.
When a woman is unmarried, she often finds herself having sole custody after giving birth unless the alleged father is willing to step up and take responsibility. When a married couple has children and later divorces, there may be concerns about custody. Contrary to popular belief, women do not always get full custody. This may have been the norm in the past, when women were more likely to be stay-at-home mothers while the father worked full time.
Nowadays, this is not the case. In a divorce, the mother and father have equal footing when it comes to child custody matters. Judges do not assume mothers should have more time with their children. Instead, shared custody has become the norm, with judges looking at the best interests of the children. The courts assume that children should have a relationship with both parents unless there are extreme circumstances involved, such as abuse or neglect.
If a woman gives birth while she is married, then her husband is assumed to be the child’s father. However, when a man is unmarried, paternity is not automatically established, even if the couple is engaged or otherwise in a long-term relationship. The man has to establish paternity in other ways.
There are four ways that a man can establish parenthood in Wisconsin:
- Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement. If both the mother and the man are adults (age 18 or older) and know for sure that the man is the father, they can file a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement form. This is the easiest way to establish paternity and can be done any time after the baby is born.
- Court ruling. If there is disagreement about paternity, a court hearing will be scheduled and a judge will make a decision about paternity. Both parties should attend. If the man does not appear at the court hearing, the court could enter a default ruling and name the man as the father even if he is not at the hearing.
- Genetic testing. A man can be conclusively determined to be a child's father if genetic testing shows that the man is not excluded as the father, the statistical probability of paternity is 99% or higher, both parents are at least 18 years old, and there is no other paternity presumption.
- Acknowledgment of Marital Child. If the mother and the father get married after the child is born, they can sign an Acknowledgment of Marital Child form to establish paternity. Both parents will need to sign the form in front of a notary and mail it to the Office of Vital Records.
When paternity is in dispute, and a woman claims that a certain man is the father, the woman can file a paternity action against the man. A judge will hold a hearing and order genetic testing to determine if in fact the man is the father. If so, then he could be ordered to pay child support. Contact our Wauwatosa parental rights attorneys to learn more about paternity.
When legal fatherhood is established, the father has various rights such as:
- The right to decide whether or not his baby can be placed for adoption.
- The right to ask the court for custody and overnight visits with his child.
- The right to submit a parenting plan to the courts.
Genetic testing can help determine paternity. These DNA tests can be done via a cheek swab test or a blood test. For both tests, samples are taken from the man, the mother, and the child. The court uses the test results to rule on paternity when it is uncertain. If the tests show a 99% or greater probability of paternity, the man is presumed to be the father under Wisconsin law.
Importance of Maternity and Paternity
Children should know who their mother and father are. Being a parent allows your child to have various benefits such as:
- The father’s name on the birth certificate
- Child support
- Health insurance
- Inheritance rights
- Life insurance
- Access to Social Security benefits
- Access to military benefits
- Access to family medical history