Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Protecting Children, Strengthening Families, Building Communities




Questions Parents ask about Paternity Establishment

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 a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form. Once the 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 and 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?

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.

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. It is best to determine paternity as soon as possible after the birth of the child.

Will the man or the mother need a lawyer?

The child support agency's lawyer may bring a court action to establish legal fatherhood. However, the child support attorney does NOT represent either parent.

If a man is named as a possible father, he might want to hire a lawyer. If he is under 18 and named as a possible father, the court will appoint a lawyer for him unless he has his own.

Will the father have to pay child support?

If a man is found to be the father, he will be expected to support his child.

What does paternity have to do with the W-2 and BadgerCare Plus programs?

When a child or the mother receives benefits from the W-2, BadgerCare Plus, 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. This means the mother must give information about the potential father to the child support agency and take genetic tests, if necessary.