Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Protecting Children, Strengthening Families, Building Communities

 

 

Establishing Legal Fatherhood

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Below is information on the 3 ways legal fatherhood (paternity) is determined in Wisconsin.

Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment

If both the mother and the man are 18 or older and are sure that the man is the father, the easiest way to establish paternity is with the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form. The form may be filed at any time after the baby is born. To ensure the child's rights, it is best to file the form soon after the child is born.

If either parent wants genetic testing, the parents should not sign the form until they receive the test results. Parents may ask their local child support agency for genetic tests.

About the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment (VPA) form

Before signing the form, make sure you understand the form's meaning.

  • The VPA form is a legal document and legally establishes paternity of your child.
  • This means the court may order support for the baby without having a court hearing to prove who the father is.
  • Child support will continue until the baby becomes an adult.
  • If you have questions or are unsure if signing the form is the best idea, do not sign the form until you speak to one of the following:
    1. The person who gave you the form;
    2. Your local child support agency;
    3. A counselor, or an attorney; or
    4. Call the Paternity Acknowledgment Answer Line at 1-888-643-7284.

What the VPA form does NOT do:

  • Completing the form does not create a child support order. However, it does allow the court to order support if necessary.
  • The form does not give the father legal custody or placement. It does give the right for the father to ask the court for custody or visitation.

Where to Get the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form

  • At the hospital when your baby is born.
    All hospitals in Wisconsin have this form and will offer it to new parents.
  • From your midwife when your baby is born.
  • From your local child support agency.
  • At your local Register of Deeds Office or the state Vital Records Office.

If you change your mind after signing the form

  • You can withdraw the VPA form if a court has not yet ruled on a family matter involving the father, mother, and child.
  • Either the mother or the father can mail a completed Request to Withdraw Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form to the state Office of Vital Records.
  • The withdrawal form must be filed within 60 days of filing the original VPA form.
  • The withdrawal form is available at the same places listed above where you can get the VPA form.
  • If you change your mind after 60 days, or after a court has ruled on paternity, you must ask the court to change the child's paternity.

Court Hearing

If a man is named as the possible father and does not agree, or if a man states that he is the father of a child and the mother doesn't agree, a court hearing will be scheduled. The court will make a decision about paternity. Both the man and the mother will be notified of the hearing and both should attend.

At the hearing, the man's rights and responsibilities will be explained to him. If he wants genetic testing, he should ask the court for genetic tests.

If the man does not appear at the court hearing, the court may still enter a default ruling. The court may name the father even if he is not at the hearing.

Acknowledgment of a Marital Child

  • If the mother and the father get married after their child is born, the parents may sign an Acknowledgment of Marital Child form to establish paternity.
  • Parents can get this form at their local child support agency or from the state Vital Records Office. Both parents should sign the form in front of a notary and mail it to the state Office of Vital Records.