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The Importance of Establishing Paternity in Wisconsin

by | Jan 15, 2024

Fatherhood comes in all shapes and sizes in today’s modern families. It could come from a stepdad who’s been there since day one. Or a sperm donor who enabled a couple to start a family. There’s also the deadbeat dad who abandoned his responsibilities.

The role of a father can be complex. But according to the law, establishing paternity has a very specific meaning. Paternity means being legally recognized as a child’s biological father.

This article will explore why determining the legal father is so important for children, parents, and society in Wisconsin. We’ll also show you how VHD Law can help you through the process.

Legal Implications of Paternity in Wisconsin

Any man can be a father figure. But being a child’s legal father is more than just a title. It signifies a host of rights and duties. Determining paternity gives the father a stake in the child’s life. It also makes him accountable for providing emotional, financial, and legal support.

In the eyes of Wisconsin law, fathers can have one of three statuses:

Acknowledged Father: An acknowledged father voluntarily agrees to be the child’s biological dad. This often happens when a man is married to the mother or signs a paternity statement.

Alleged Father: An alleged father is assumed to be the biological father but has not yet accepted legal responsibility. Genetic testing may be done to confirm paternity if contested.

Presumptive Father: A man is legally presumed to be the father if married to the mother. But this assumption can be challenged and disproven via paternity tests.

Paternity and Child Custody

Establishing paternity is the first step toward defining custody rights and arrangements between unmarried parents. The legal father gains standing to petition for custody or placement schedules. He also has a say in key decisions about the child’s welfare. While this is not always done with a family law attorney, there may be benefits to hiring one. 

Paternity and Child Support

Legally recognized fathers are financially responsible for supporting their children. The court will often order the non-custodial parent, usually the father, to pay child support to the custodial parent.

Paternity and Inheritance Rights

Under Wisconsin statute, a child born to unmarried parents can still inherit from the legal father’s estate. The father gains succession rights too. Determining paternity safeguards children’s interests even if the father passes away.

Paternity and Parental Decision-Making

Fathers have a legal say in major life decisions. These include choice of schooling, religious upbringing, and healthcare matters. Establishing paternity secures the father’s role in guiding the child’s welfare and upbringing. Unmarried fathers gain a seat at the table for legal consultations.

Methods of Establishing Paternity in Wisconsin

“You are NOT the father!” Daytime television has sensationalized the drama of proving parentage. In real life, establishing paternity might involve a DNA test, but there are other ways to do it, too. Let’s go over the main methods.

Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment

One way to establish paternity is by voluntarily signing a form acknowledging the father. Both the mother and father sign the standardized document either at the hospital or before a notary public. The father waives genetic testing but assumes legal parenthood. This administrative process saves time and money while protecting the child’s welfare.

Administrative Paternity Order

Wisconsin’s Child Support Agency oversees the administrative process when unmarried parents cannot agree. The agency may order genetic tests to determine the probability of paternity. If positive, an administrative order legally establishes the father’s status and triggers child support obligations. There is no court hearing unless the father contests.

Court-Ordered Paternity Ruling

Either parent can petition the court to establish paternity, especially if it is disputed. The judge weighs evidence like genetic test results and may order additional testing. The court issues a legal finding about paternity based on proof and arguments. This judicial process can be initiated before the child turns 18.

An attorney from VHD Law can help build the best case and advocate effectively in contested actions. Their counsel and representation safeguard children’s best interests.

The Benefits of Establishing Paternity for the Child

Confirming both biological parents secures lifelong benefits for the child’s welfare and development.

Emotional and Psychological Benefits

Having a sense of identity is huge for a child’s emotional well-being. Knowing who their biological father is gives them a more complete picture of themselves. It also opens up the chance to build a relationship with their dad, which is great for their development.

Access to Medical History

Children need to know genetically transmitted health risks and conditions that run in the family tree. Tracing medical histories on both maternal and paternal sides enables better preventative healthcare.

Financial Support and Security

Legal paternity sets the foundation for court-ordered child support if parents separate. Even if fathers play little role in daily parenting, this financial assistance safeguards children’s basic needs and future.

Legal Status with Both Parents

Having two legally recognized parents provides documentation for school enrollment, insurance coverage, and obtaining a driver’s license or passport. It grants children legal as well as social status within both families.

Benefits of Establishing Paternity for Parents

While the child’s needs are the top priority, there are benefits for the parents as well when paternity is established.

Legal Recognition of Parental Rights

Establishing paternity grants unmarried fathers and mothers equal standing as legal parents. Both can then pursue custody or placement schedules in court if they separate. Shared legal decision-making also relies on confirmed parentage. A VHD Law attorney can help here as well.

Framework for Co-Parenting

Documented paternity enables crafting workable co-parenting plans, even across separate households. Regardless of past or present relationships, it sets clear guidelines for mutual duties and roles in raising the child.

Financial Responsibility and Sharing of Resources

Just as paternity establishes financial duty, it also confers financial privileges. The legal father can add children to workplace health insurance and his tax returns. Children also qualify for public entitlements like social security or military benefits under an established father.

Challenges in Establishing Paternity

Of course, confirming parentage does not always go smoothly. Contested paternity actions put children in the middle of adult disputes. The courts aim to act in the best interests of the child, but tensions can arise over:

  • Disagreements over the reliability of genetic testing
  • Mothers naming the wrong alleged father
  • Fathers avoiding legal responsibility
  • Jurisdictional issues if one parent leaves the state

Navigating these scenarios often requires legal counsel from lawyers to advocate as a child’s de facto guardian. Delays in the legal process can also leave children without financial or emotional support. Still, establishing paternity remains essential for protecting each child’s overall welfare.

The Importance of Establishing Paternity

Knowing exactly who your biological parents are lays a foundation for lifelong benefits. That’s why even amicable parents should formally establish legal paternity. Confirming fatherhood not only upholds a child’s rights but also grants unmarried fathers legal status.

Society relies on this parental safety net to foster the next generation.

So whether you’re married or single, establishing paternity safeguards your child’s identity and welfare. It’s a fundamental parental duty – and privilege. If you have any uncertainties, contact our team today to explore your legal options. Our attorneys have over 40 years assisting local families create frameworks for positive parenting.

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Written by Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.

Family Law

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