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Paternity Attorneys in Madison & Milwaukee

Establishing Legal Paternity for Wisconsin Parents and Children

Paternity is the legal relationship between a father and his child. Every child has a biological father, but if the parents are not married, the child has no legal father until paternity is formally established. Once established, the court has the authority to grant the father certain rights (e.g. custody or visitation) as well as obligations (e.g. child support) with regard to the child. Paternity must be established before a court will decide child support, custody, placement or other important issues. We assist both mothers or fathers through this proceeding.

Establishing Legal Paternity in Wisconsin

When the parents of a child are not married, paternity must be legally established by either an administrative or adjudication process.

In the administrative process, the father admits to being the biological father and signs a voluntary paternity acknowledgment, frequently at the time of birth in conjunction with a birth certificate.

In the adjudicatory process, a court determines paternity. In Wisconsin, paternity actions are started by either the State of Wisconsin or an interested party, which is commonly one of the parents of the child. Typically, the court makes a finding of the child’s parentage through DNA testing or voluntary admission by the alleged father. Once paternity is established, the court will issue orders for child custody, placement, and child support.

Why Establishing Paternity is Important

By establishing paternity for a child, parents ensure the child has the same rights and benefits as children born to married parents. Paternity may benefit either or both parents, depending on the context of the situation. Once a father has established legal paternity, he can petition the court for placement (visitation) and/or custody. If the court awards joint custody to the parents, then each has an equal say in decisions about the child’s education, religious practices, and healthcare.

Potential Paternity Benefits for Mothers

  • Share parental responsibilities
  • Improved financial security for the family
  • Medical insurance coverage for the child from the father’s medical insurance, if available

Potential Paternity Benefits for Fathers

  • Father gets his name on the child’s birth certificate
  • Child will know who his/her father is
  • Father will have the ability to ensure his rights such as custody, placement and support are enforced through a court order
  • Father will have his parental rights considered before his child can be placed for adoption

Potential Paternity Benefits for Children

  • Child will know who his or her father is
  • Child will be entitled to receive financial support from both parents until he/she becomes an adult
  • Child will have rights to his/her father’s social security, veterans’ benefits, pensions, and inheritance
  • Child will have rights to tribal enrollment if Native American
  • Child may be enrolled in his/her father’s health insurance plan

We represent both mothers and fathers in paternity proceedings. If you need representation in a paternity matter, contact Milwaukee paternity lawyers Katherine Charlton, or Amy Shapiro by calling 414-271-8650, or Madison paternity attorney Lynn Lodahl by calling 608-258-0040. If you prefer email, please use our website form to set up a consultation.