How is Paternity of a Child Established in Wisconsin?

A paternity case is when the parents of a child were never married.  The purpose of a paternity case is to establish parental rights over a child and to set custody, placement and child support orders.

What rights does an alleged father have during the pregnancy of the mother?

Until paternity can be established either by a DNA test or an acknowledgment of paternity, an alleged father has no rights to the child.

What does “adjudication” mean and how does an alleged father become adjudicated?

Adjudication is the formal recognition of an alleged father as the legal father of a child born to unmarried parents.  Prior to an adjudication, an alleged father has no rights to a child.

Adjudication can occur one of two ways:

  1. If both the mother and alleged father are certain of the paternity of the child, then a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity may be signed. This document is presented at the hospital after the birth of the child.  If the alleged father is not present at the birth, the document can be obtained by contacting Wisconsin Vital Records. http://dcf.wisconsin.gov/bcs/path.htm
  2. If one or both of the parties are unsure of the paternity of the child, then a DNA test should be conducted to confirm or exclude the alleged father as the legal father of the child.

How does an alleged father obtain placement and custody rights to a child?

Once a man is adjudicated as the legal father of a child, the Court will order “terms” relating to the custody, placement and support of the child.  Simply being adjudicated does not give a father any rights to custody or placement, nor does adjudication mandate the payment of child support. The process of establishing custody, placement and support can be resolved by the agreement of the parties or a paternity action having been filed with the Court.  A judgment of paternity must be entered and approved by the court before a father has enforceable rights for custody and placement.

What factors will the court consider when ordering custody?

There is a presumption in Wisconsin statutes that parties should share joint legal custody of a child.  Legal Custody is the right to make legal decisions regarding a child.  The Court may order sole legal custody to one parent in cases of domestic abuse or if the Court determines that joint legal custody is not in a child’s best interest.

What factors will the court consider in determining placement?

There are a number of factors that the Court will consider when determining placement.  The age of the child, distance the parents live from each other, work schedules, parents’ ability to communicate, and best interest of the child are only some examples of what the Court will consider when determining placement.  A Court will not automatically award primary placement to the mother simply because she is the mother.  The statute requires that the Court maximize the amount of meaningful time each parent has with the child.  This provision does not necessarily, however, require that the court order equal time.   Please see our Custody and Placement FAQ’s for additional information.

What if I disagree with the placement schedule ordered by the court?

At the first hearing, if the parents cannot agree on a placement schedule, they will be ordered to participate in mediation.  If mediation is unsuccessful, either a custody study and/or a guardian ad litem will be appointed.  The Guardian ad Litem will complete an investigation and make a recommendation to the Court as to what he/she believes to be in the best interest of the child.

Will child support be ordered?

Yes.   Once a father is adjudicated, the obligation to support the child will be addressed by the court.

How much child support will I have to pay?

Please see our Blog Post on Child Support or visit us at our website by clicking here.

Explore posts in the same categories: Child Support, Custody and Placement, Paternity

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We welcome your comments or questions. We will do our best to try to respond. However, please be advised that we cannot give legal advice in this forum and all communications are for general informational purposes only. Communication should not be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. This is an open forum and any information you provide may be posted and will not be held confidentially. By posting a comment or question, you are expressly giving consent for the publication of same. If you have any specific legal issues or concerns, we always recommend that you consult with an attorney in the county and state in which you reside.

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