Establishing Legal Fatherhood (Paternity)

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It is important for your baby to know who his or her mother and father are. After all, you are the only birth mother and father your child will have. In addition, establishing a legal father for your child ensures both your child's rights and your rights as parents.

Legal Fatherhood Protects Your Baby's Rights
If you establish legal fatherhood, your child:

  • Will know who his or her father is
  • Will be entitled to receive financial support from both parents until he or she becomes an adult
  • Will have rights to his or her father's social security, veterans' benefits, pension, and inheritance if something should happen
  • Will have the rights to tribal enrollment if Native American
  • Will have access to the father's family's heath history (by the child's doctor). This is important because conditions such as diabetes, cancers, heart problems, and sickle cell run in families
  • May be enrolled in his or her father's health insurance plan

Legal Fatherhood Protects the Father's Rights
Legal fatherhood gives the father the right to:

  • Have his name on the child's birth certificate
  • Have his child know who his or her father is
  • Have his parental rights considered before his baby can be placed for adoption
  • Ask the court for legal custody and placement/visitation of his child

If the mother or man is not sure of who the father is, they should get genetic tests. Local child support agencies offer genetic testing at a reduced cost. If the parents were not married, legal fatherhood has to be decided before a court will order child support. If a child was conceived or born when the mother was married, her husband is the legal father. No further action will be taken by the Child Support program.

The 3 Ways Legal Fatherhood Can Be Established in Wisconsin

  1. Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment
    If both the mother and the man are sure that the man is the father, the easiest way to establish legal fatherhood is by filling out the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form. The father and mother may fill out this form after their baby is born.
  2. Court Ruling
    If a man is named as a possible father and does not agree -OR- if a man states he is the father of a child and the mother does not agree, the court will make a ruling about paternity. Both the man and the mother will be notified of the hearing, and both should attend.
  3. Acknowledgment of Marital Child (Legitimation)
    If the mother and the father get married after the child is born, the parents may sign an Acknowledgment of Marital Child form (Legitimation) to establish paternity.

More Questions Parents Ask about Legal Fatherhood

Updated June 21, 2012

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