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Wisconsin Paternity Law Firm

The experienced paternity attorneys at Divergent Family Law will help you establish legal fatherhood in Wisconsin. It is vital to establish paternity to ensure your legal rights as a parent and protect the rights of your child in the case of a divorce or separation from your partner. Contact Divergent Family Law today for a free consultation and start the process of establishing the paternity of your children.

What is Legal Paternity?

Legal paternity in Wisconsin is the official recognition of a man as the legal father of a child. The legal acknowledgment grants fathers the right ability to seek child custody and placement, and the responsibility to provide child support. Establishing legal paternity is crucial for ensuring a father’s involvement in their child’s life and securing the child’s access to benefits such as inheritance and medical insurance. There are no residency requirements for filing a paternity action, but they must be initiated in the appropriate county jurisdiction.

What is a Paternity Action?

A paternity action is a legal process used to determine and establish the fatherhood of a child when it is disputed, often involving genetic testing to conclusively identify the biological father. Once paternity is legally established in Wisconsin, the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate, solidifying his legal rights and obligations.

How is Paternity Established in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin paternity laws state a child’s mother, a man presumed to be the child’s father, a guardian ad litem, a grandparent, or the child themself can petition to establish or challenge paternity. Any petition to establish or challenge paternity must be filed before the child’s 19th birthday.

Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment

Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement (VPA) is a legal document parents can sign, typically at the hospital after the child’s birth, to establish paternity without needing a court order. By signing the form, both parents acknowledge the father’s legal status and allow his name to be added to the birth certificate. A VPA ensures the father can be held responsible for child support and grants him parental rights. However, parents should seek legal advice if there is any uncertainty about the child’s father before signing the form.

Court Hearing

A court hearing is required when there is a disagreement about the identity of the child’s father. Both parties present evidence before a judge during the hearing, and a DNA test is usually ordered to establish paternity. In Wisconsin, a DNA test showing a 99% or higher probability of paternity is accepted as conclusive evidence. If the alleged father refuses to comply with a court-ordered DNA test, he may be held in contempt of court.

Acknowledgment of a Marital Child

An Acknowledgment of a marital child form is used when a child’s birth occurs before the parents are married. You can obtain the form from a local child support agency or a state vital records office. After filling out the form, it must be notarized and sent to the state office of Vital Records to be officially recorded. The acknowledgment ensures the father’s name is added to the birth certificate and solidifies his legal parental rights and responsibilities.

Why is it important to establish legal paternity?

Legal paternity establishes rights for the father


  • Placing the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate
  • Securing rights to legal custody and physical placement
  • The right to be considered before a child can be placed for adoption
Legal paternity establishes rights for the Child


  • Financial support from both birth parents until the child is 19 years old
  • Legal rights to the father’s social security, veteran’s benefits, pension and inheritance
  • Enrollment in the father’s employer-provided or private health insurance plan
  • If the father is part of an Indigenous community, the child will have rights to tribal enrollment

Two Types of Paternity Cases in Wisconsin

1 Paternity for Child Support

Establishing paternity for child support ensures a father is legally responsible for contributing to the financial needs of his child. Legal acknowledgment of paternity allows the mother to seek child support payments to cover essential expenses like housing, education and healthcare. By establishing paternity, the father’s obligation to support his child is legally enforced to provide financial security and stability for the child’s upbringing.

2 Paternity for Custody

Establishing paternity for custody legally recognizes the father to grant him rights regarding the child’s care and decision-making. Legal paternity allows the father to seek custody and placement, ensuring he can be involved in their child’s upbringing.

Paternity Case Process

If both parties agree on the identity of the child’s father, a formal paternity case likely won’t be necessary. However, when there is a disagreement, one party must initiate a paternity case. The following steps lead to legally establishing paternity:


The paternity case begins when one party files a petition with the court to establish paternity. Your filing outlines the reasons for seeking paternity determination and identifies the alleged father. The petition is then served to the other party, initiating the legal proceedings.


A court hearing is scheduled where both parties can present their arguments and evidence before a judge. During the hearing, the judge will assess the case and decide if further steps, such as genetic testing, are necessary to determine paternity.

Paternity Testing

If the court orders genetic testing, both the child and the alleged father will undergo DNA testing to establish a biological relationship. The test results are typically highly accurate, and a 99% or higher probability of paternity is considered conclusive evidence.

Settlement or Judgment

Based on the test results and evidence presented, the case may either be settled out of court or proceed to a judicial judgment. If paternity is confirmed, the court will issue a legal order establishing the father’s rights and responsibilities, including custody, visitation and child support arrangements.

The structured process ensures paternity is accurately determined to protect the rights and interests of both the child and parents.

Contact Divergent Family Law

If you need to file a paternity action, or if you want more information on your options as they relate to the paternity of your child, contact Divergent Family Law for a FREE initial consultation.

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