Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Protecting Children, Strengthening Families, Building Communities




Establishing Legal Fatherhood (Paternity)


It is important for your baby to know who his or her parents are. 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 able 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 health history. This is important because conditions such as diabetes, cancer, 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 parental rights considered before his baby can be placed for adoption
  • Ask the court for legal custody and placement of his child

Genetic Testing

If the mother or man is not sure who the father is, they should have genetic testing done. Find out more about genetic testing.

Establish Legal paternity

In Wisconsin there are 3 ways to establish legal fatherhood:

  • Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment
  • Court Ruling
  • Acknowledgment of Marital Child

Learn more about the 3 ways Legal Fatherhood can be established in Wisconsin.