In many ways, family law cases can be more stressful than other types of legal cases. These are the issues involving your children and your spouse. A family court judge can change your relationship with your children forever by terminating your parental rights or ruling on a new custody arrangement. One family law issue that can easily become contentious is paternity actions.
In Wisconsin, a child born to married parents is automatically both parents’ legal child. When the parents are not married, the father must establish himself as the child’s father in order to have the legal rights that accompany fatherhood.
Ways to Establish Paternity in Wisconsin
Paternity actions in Wisconsin are handled by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. There are three ways for a father to establish his paternity in Wisconsin:
- Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement. When the child’s parents agree about who is the child’s father, they can sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement (VPA) form. This can be obtained from the hospital where the baby is born or from the state Vital Records Office, a local Register of Deeds office or a local child support agency. In Green Bay, this is Brown County Child Support Department.
- Court Hearing. If a child’s parents do not agree about the child’s paternity, the issue may need to be resolved in court. In a paternity court hearing, both parties present their case and the man is informed of his rights and responsibilities should he be named the child’s father. Either party may order genetic testing.
- Acknowledgement of Marital Child. If the parents marry after their child is born, they can sign an Acknowledgement of Marital Child form to establish the child’s paternity. This form can be obtained from a local child support agency of the state Vital Records Office.
Why Should I Establish my Child’s Paternity?
If you are not your child’s legal father, your relationship with your child is at the mother’s discretion. If she decides to sever your contact with the child for any reason, you have no grounds to challenge the decision if you have not established your paternity.
Establishing your paternity enables you to do the following:
- Seek custody or visitation with your child
- List your name on your child’s birth certificate
- Seek child support for your child
- Claim your child as a dependent on your taxes and health care insurance
- Receive notification from the court if your child’s mother opts to place the child for adoption. If you have parental rights, these are considered if your child is placed for adoption.
Work with an Appleton Family Law Attorney
As a parent, it is important that you have the legal tie to your child that establishes your paternity. For help with this process, work with an experienced family lawyer who can discuss your rights, your legal options and the best way for you to proceed with your case with you. Contact our team of experienced Appleton lawyers at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC, today to set up your initial consultation in our office.