Brazil & Benske, LLC

Legally establishing fatherhood in Wisconsin

Some individuals may not be aware that fathers do not have automatic paternal rights to children when they are born. Often times, this becomes an issue during a separation when a father wants rights to his children, or when a mother seeks child support.

In such cases, the parents must obtain a determination of paternity. In the state of Wisconsin, there are a few different ways to complete this process.

Voluntary acknowledgement

If both parents are in agreement and are sure the child belongs to the father, they may complete a voluntary paternity acknowledgment form any time after the child's birth. However, if there is any doubt about the paternity, the father should get a paternity test before signing the papers. A local child support agency may assist with this process.

Acknowledgment of marital child

For those parents looking to marry each other, an acknowledgment of a marital child may be a viable option. The parents would collect the form from the state Vital Records Office or a child support agency. They need to complete the form with the assistance of a notary and mail the form to the Vital Records Office.


If the parents cannot agree on paternity, one may request a hearing. The courts schedule the court date and both parties must attend. A parent may request a paternity test, or the court may require it. Once the fatherhood is official, the courts determine and state the rights of the father. Even if the father does not attend, the courts may still make a judgment in relation to him.

These are small summaries of the paternity process. Wisconsin statute chapter 767, subchapter IX fully details the requirements and process for determining paternity. If you or a loved one seek to establish fatherhood for a child, make sure you understand and completely follow the law. It may be helpful to consult and work with a knowledgeable attorney.

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