Paternity, or legal fatherhood, gives the child’s father the right to participate in the child’s life. Establishing paternity with the state allows the child to receive financial support and other benefits.
If you and your partner are not married but have a child together, learn about establishing legal fatherhood in Wisconsin.
Pathways to establish paternity
Wisconsin law provides three potential routes to legal paternity. When both parents are at least 18 years old and have no doubts about the biological father’s identity, they can sign the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement form. Parents can get this form from a Wisconsin hospital after the baby’s birth, the local child support agency, the state vital records office and the local register of deeds office. They cannot use this form if the mother was married to someone else at the infant’s conception or birth.
If either parent is unsure about the father’s identity, they can request a paternity hearing with the local child support agency. At this session, which both parents must attend, they can ask the court for DNA testing to determine paternity. If the father does not show up to the hearing, the court can make a default paternity judgment for child support purposes.
When parents plan to marry after the birth, they can complete the Acknowledgement of Marital Child form after doing so. They must notarize this form and send it to the state’s vital records office.
Benefits of legal paternity
After establishing paternity, the father can submit a parenting plan to the court outlining his wishes for visitation, including overnight visits. He can also request full or partial physical and legal custody.
In Wisconsin, the mother has sole legal and physical custody of the child until the state establishes paternity. After a legal paternity order is in place, the mother cannot place the child for adoption without the father’s consent. She also cannot keep the father from exercising his legal rights as a parent. The court will also create a child support order so that both parents share the responsibilities of raising the child.