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Name on a birth certificate.

There probably isn’t a day that goes by where I read a question posted on Avvo or or we receive at our web site, about placing the father’s name on a child’s birth certificate to determine that they are the father. We are obviously talking about a situation here where the child is born out of wedlock.

Putting a person’s name on the birth certificate in Wisconsin, has no legal effect in determining that the person is the legal biological father of the child. It holds no legal significance.

There are only two ways in Wisconsin that can establish paternity, which ultimately will lead to putting the biological father’s name on the birth certificate.

1. Voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.  The parents can both sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity on the proper state provided form and properly file it in Madison with the bureau of labor statistics. If after the statutory period of recession, the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity acts as a regular judgment of paternity. It doesn’t establish custody, placement or support obligations for the child, but those issues can be dealt with by filing appropriate court papers and asking for what is called a “terms hearing,” to establish appropriate court orders for the child on those issues. The parties can of course, reach an agreement on those same issues and enter into a stipulation and order for approval by the court.

2. Formal paternity action. The parties can alternatively file a formal paternity action with the court and either party has the right to request DNA testing to prove whether a person is the biological father or not. Once DNA testing is completed, and if the tesr results do not exclude paternity, the alleged father next time in court can admit to paternity. Once paternity is formally established in court, the father’s name will be placed on the birth certificate and the parties can proceed to either agree or to have a hearing to resolve the issues of custody, placement, child support, health insurance, health care expenses and any other issues that affect the minor child.

So, don’t get worked up when a child is born to an unmarried couple as to either placing or removing a particular named person on the child’s birth certificate, because until paternity is established, the name on the birth certificate has no legal effect under Wisconsin law.

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