An experienced West Bend paternity attorney can provide you with legal guidance and assistance on this subject. At Karp & Iancu, S.C., we can represent clients in contested paternity proceedings. We can explain the law in this area and how it applies to your situation. And we can work with you and other parties involved to achieve a mutually acceptable outcome in all family law matters where possible.
What Is Paternity?
In simple terms, paternity is a child’s legal father. It is generally not difficult to establish a child’s maternity. The person who gives birth to the child is automatically presumed to be the mother. But determining paternity is not always so cut-and-dry.
As far as Wisconsin law is concerned, if the mother was married at the time she gave birth, then her husband is considered the child’s father. He does not have to take any separate legal action to establish the presumption of paternity. But what if the parents are not married?
If the mother and the likely father agree on paternity, they can sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form. So long as both parents sign the form, that is all that is needed to establish legal paternity. This form is often filled out at the hospital after birth and allows the father’s name to appear right away on the child’s birth certificate.
It is important to understand, however, that establishing legal paternity does not give an unmarried father any automatic custody or physical placement rights. The mother has sole legal custody unless and until a court decides otherwise. So the father may still need to go to court to fully assert their parental rights with respect to the child.
Besides the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form, there are other ways to establish paternity in Wisconsin:
- If the mother and father marry after the child’s birth, they can sign and submit an Acknowledgment of Marital Child form.
- There is a genetic test performed on the child, mother, and the alleged father that shows at least a 99-percent probability of paternity.
- A judge holds a hearing and determines paternity based on the evidence presented, including genetic testing.
What Happens After Paternity Is Established?
Once someone is confirmed as the child’s legal father, they have both certain rights and responsibilities under the law:
- The father may seek joint or sole custody, i.e., the authority to make major life decisions for the child.
- The father may seek to have the child live with them some or all of the time (physical placement).
- If the child continues to live primarily with the mother, the court will likely require the father to pay child support, which is based on certain guidelines specified in Wisconsin state law.
- If the mother has received public assistance, she may be required to reimburse the state once the father’s child support obligations are established.
When Can Paternity Be Established?
Under Wisconsin law, a legal action to establish paternity can be brought at any point until the child turns 19. Either the alleged father or the mother can bring a paternity lawsuit during the child’s minority. After the child turns 19, however, there is no legal process available in Wisconsin to compel an alleged father to submit to genetic testing.
Contact Karp & Iancu, S.C. Today
Anytime a child is conceived outside of marriage, it is a good idea for both parents–or any potential parents–to consult with a qualified West Bend paternity attorney. Even in cases where unmarried parents file a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, that does not fully establish either the father’s rights to custody or placement, or the mother’s right to receive child support. There are additional legal steps that must be taken.