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Father's Rights - Wisconsin

Establishing Paternity in Wisconsin | Eisenberg Law

How to establish paternity in Wisconsin

Wisconsin law does not automatically grant legal rights to unwed fathers. Unless you establish legal paternity, the mother has sole legal custody of the child. This means the father has no legal right to decide issues like where the child will live, what schools the child will attend, or what religious instruction the child will receive. Even if you have been a part of the child’s life, these rights can be removed at any time unless you establish legal paternity.

Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity

You can establish your paternity through a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, or VAP. This is an official form that both parents sign, agreeing that you are the father of the child. You can do this when the child is born or later, so long as both parents agree. If you are not certain whether you are the father, you should consult an attorney before you sign a VAP.

Court Proceeding

If you cannot get a VAP in place, you can file a paternity motion and request a court hearing. As part of the proceeding, the court will order genetic testing to determine paternity. If the test confirms you are the father, the court will then determine custody, visitation, financial obligations, and other issues based on the best interests of the child and the law. Depending on the circumstances, this can be done as a temporary order or a final order contained in a paternity judgment.

Guardian ad Litum

Often, the parties agree to the paternity issues and sign a permanent agreement. If you cannot agree, the court will refer the matter for a custody study and/or appoint a guardian ad litum to observe the parents’ interactions and living arrangements with the child. A family care counselor or guardian ad litum will then make recommendations to the court that, along with any evidence the parents provide, will help the court reach a permanent custody and support decision.

This important process can be difficult to navigate. If you need help establishing paternity for a child, you should seek experienced legal help.  Contact Eisenberg Law to discuss your situation.