Paternity Attorneys in Madison & Milwaukee

Establishing  Paternity for Wisconsin Parents & Children

Paternity is the legal relationship between a father and their child. If the parents of a child are not married, the child has no legal father until paternity is formally established. Once established, the court will decide child support, custody, placement or other important issues. We assist both mothers and 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 or may be established by acknowledgement of Marital child, if the parties subsequently marry.

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

In the adjudicatory process, a court determines paternity. Paternity actions are started by 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.

If the parents subsequently marry, they can sign an acknowledgement of Marital Child and send it into the office of Vital Statistics.

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

2020 Changes in Paternity

As of August 1, 2020, 2018 Wis Act 95 provided an expanded administrative paternity process, and clarified several existing provisions. Child support agencies can initiate an administrative paternity action if they believe parents are likely to cooperate. The benefits of doing so include avoiding the delay caused between the filing of a paternity action and the first hearing, naming multiple potential fathers in a paternity action, and an opportunity to move directly to a consideration of custody, placement and child support once genetic tests results are known. Parents can ask a child support agencies to utilize this procedure.

Act 95 also made genetic testing mandatory for all paternity cases.

Section 767.885 allows a judge or commissioner to dismiss a paternity action at any time, even if the genetic tests indicate who the father is, if the court determines that it is not in the child’s best interest to have paternity established. Courts previously struggled with whether the existence of genetic test results precluded that choice.

Contact Us

We have experienced family law attorneys at both our Milwaukee and Madison offices. Please call a Madison family law attorney directly at (608) 257-0040 or a Milwaukee family law attorney at (414) 271-8650, or email us via our Contact Page.

Paternity is the legal relationship between a father and their child. If the parents of a child are not married, the child has no legal father until paternity is formally established. Once established, the court will decide child support, custody, placement or other important issues. We assist both mothers and 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 or may be established by acknowledgement of Marital child, if the parties subsequently marry.

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

In the adjudicatory process, a court determines paternity. Paternity actions are started by 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.

If the parents subsequently marry, they can sign an acknowledgement of Marital Child and send it into the office of Vital Statistics.

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

2020 Changes in Paternity

As of August 1, 2020, 2018 Wis Act 95 provided an expanded administrative paternity process, and clarified several existing provisions. Child support agencies can initiate an administrative paternity action if they believe parents are likely to cooperate. The benefits of doing so include avoiding the delay caused between the filing of a paternity action and the first hearing, naming multiple potential fathers in a paternity action, and an opportunity to move directly to a consideration of custody, placement and child support once genetic tests results are known. Parents can ask a child support agencies to utilize this procedure.

Act 95 also made genetic testing mandatory for all paternity cases.

Section 767.885 allows a judge or commissioner to dismiss a paternity action at any time, even if the genetic tests indicate who the father is, if the court determines that it is not in the child’s best interest to have paternity established. Courts previously struggled with whether the existence of genetic test results precluded that choice.

Contact Us

We have experienced family law attorneys at both our Milwaukee and Madison offices. Please call a Madison family law attorney directly at (608) 257-0040 or a Milwaukee family law attorney at (414) 271-8650, or email us via our Contact Page.

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