Paternity: Fathers' Rights and Responsibilities

By establishing paternity, a father gains legal rights and responsibilities to his child. This means he has the legal right to be a part of his child's life and the responsibility to help support him or her. Paternity must be established before a court can order child custody/placement and child support.

At Nicholson, Gansner & Otis, S.C., in Madison, our lawyers know how important establishing paternity can be to a father's and child's future. Whether you are a father establishing paternity so you can spend time with your child or a mother establishing paternity so you can seek child support, we can help.

How to Establish Paternity in Wisconsin

There are a few different ways to establish paternity:

  • Voluntary paternity acknowledgement: If both parents agree to paternity, you can submit a voluntary paternity acknowledgement form to declare the child as your own. Once you complete and mail this form to the Vital Records department, the father will be added to the child's birth certificate.
  • Acknowledgement of marital child: Also called legitimation, this process allows a mother and father who get married after the child is born to sign an Acknowledgement of Marital Child form to acknowledge paternity.
  • Court ruling: When two parties contest paternity, they can ask a court to decide. Typically, the man will undergo genetic testing and the court will make a decision based on the test and other factors. If you are the alleged father and you do not show up to your court hearing, the court can declare you the father in your absence, even without a paternity test.

Your Rights as a Father

If you are a father seeking paternity, you may be asked to pay child support. You will also receive important rights to your child, including:

  • The right to seek child custody and submit a parenting plan
  • The right to seek legal custody and make important decisions for your child, including schooling and religion decisions
  • The right to contest adoption

We will help you take action to become a part of your child's life.

Call 608-620-0018 for a Free 30 minute Initial Consultation

Discuss your paternity case with our attorneys in a free 30 minute initial consultation . Our law office is located in the heart of downtown Madison. We offer off-site, evening and weekend appointments upon request.