- What if the man or the mother is not sure who the father is?
- If a man believes he is the father, what should he do?
- When can paternity be established?
- What should a father do if the mother does not want him around?
- Will the man or mother need a lawyer?
- Will the father have to pay child support?
- What if the father is in school?
- What if the father does not have a job or make much money?
- Could the father go to jail?
- Can the father get custody of his child?
- When does paternity have to do with the W-2 and BadgerCare Plus programs?
- What if the father threatens the mother, or she is afraid to report who the father is?
What if the man or the mother is not sure who the father is?
If the man or the mother is not sure, they should NOT sign the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form. Once this form is filed, it has the same effect as a court ruling. The man will be considered the legal father, and a court can order the man to pay child support.
If no legal process has been started, the man or the mother should contact the local child support agency and ask for genetic tests. Child support agencies offer genetic testing at a reduced price.
If a legal process has been started, the man and the mother should appear at the hearing at the scheduled time. During the legal process, the child support agency or the court will order genetic tests.
If a man believes he is the father, what should he do?
Even if the man plans to help his baby and the mother, it is important to legally establish fatherhood. If the mother does not agree, the man can go to court to establish paternity. The man’s local child support agency may be able to help with this. By establishing legal fatherhood, the father’s rights and the child's rights are protected.
A father can build a positive relationship with his child even if he is not in a relationship with the mother. There may be parenting or fatherhood classes and support groups in the area for dads.
When can paternity be established?
Paternity can be established any time after the child is born. However, a court action to establish paternity must occur before the child’s 19th birthday. To ensure the child's and the parents’ rights, it is best to determine paternity as soon as possible.
What should a father do if the mother or her family does not want him
If a man believes he is the child's father, it is his right and responsibility to establish legal fatherhood. That is true even if the mother or her family does not want him around. His local child support agency may be able to help him with establishing paternity, or he may hire an attorney.
If a man is named as a possible father, he might want legal representation. If he is under 18 and named as a possible father, the court will appoint a lawyer for him unless he has his own. If he is 18 or over, he may hire a lawyer.
What if the father is in school?
If the father is in school and cannot help the mother support their baby, the court might wait to set support until he graduates and is working. If the father is under 18, the court might order his parents to help with the support. Parents should talk with their local child support agency about this.
What if the father does not have a job or does not make much money?
The court tries to be fair when setting child support payments so that everyone has enough money to live on. The court might order the father to look for work if he is unemployed and able to work. The court might order the father into the Children First program to help him make enough money to pay child support. The Children First program provides job search assistance, job skills training, basic education, or work experience opportunities to parents who pay child support. Not all counties and tribes have a Children First program. Other voluntary programs may be available to help the father get a job or a better job. Local Job Centers can help.
Can the father get custody of his child?
Under Wisconsin law, when a child's parents are not married, the mother has sole custody until the court orders otherwise. The father does not need to have legal custody to visit his child. If the father and the mother do not agree on legal custody, the father may ask the court for an order to share legal custody. If the father and the mother do not agree on placement/visitation, the father may ask the court for a placement/visitation order.
For court orders, both parents will have to prepare a “parenting plan.” The court would then decide what is best for the child. Custody and placement issues may be discussed with the family court counseling service. Parents should contact their family court commissioner's office for counseling services.
What does paternity have to do with the W-2 and BadgerCare
When a child or the mother receives benefits from the W-2, BadgerCare Plus, Kinship Care, or SSI Caretaker Supplement program, the state requires that the local child support agency establish legal fatherhood and get a child support order. The mother will be asked to cooperate with the child support agency.
If a child or the mother receives benefits from the W-2 program and the father is ordered to pay child support, he might be able to participate in the W-2 Noncustodial Parent program. This program can help him find a job. If the father takes part in the W-2 Noncustodial Parent Program, he must cooperate with the child support agency. If he owes past-due child support, he and the child support agency will have to agree on a payment plan.
If the BadgerCare Plus program paid a baby’s birth costs and the mother was referred to child support, the court might order the father to pay for some of the birth costs.
What if the father threatens the mother, or she is
afraid to report who
the father is?
The mother should contact the local police if anyone threatens to hurt her or the child. She may ask the police for a restraining order against a person who threatens her.
If the mother is in the W-2, BadgerCare Plus, or SSI Caretaker Supplement programs and she or her child are threatened, she might have “Good Cause” to refuse to name the father of the child. The mother will need to fill out some forms and provide evidence that she or the child are in danger. The W 2/Economic Support Agency will then investigate the situation. If the agency worker agrees that the mother or the child is in danger, the mother will not lose any assistance by not reporting the alleged father’s name to the child support agency.
If the mother wants to establish paternity and get support, she can be given “privacy protection.” Privacy protection will protect her address, telephone number, employer or other personal contact information.