Being a parent comes with both privileges and responsibilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 40% of babies in the U.S. are born to unmarried women. When the parents are married, the law assumes the identity of the mother and father. However, when a couple is not married, the paternity of the child is not automatic. The parents must establish paternity through the courts.
Benefits of Establishing Paternity
There are several important benefits of establishing parentage. Both parents have a right to spend time with their child. An unmarried father should establish legal paternity to ensure that he will always be able to have visitation with the child. A father can be a good influence in a child’s life and will provide stability as he or she grows up. With legal paternity, the father knows that he will be able to maintain a relationship with the child, regardless of how the child’s mother feels. A father will also provide for the child’s needs.
Both parents will be able to make critical decisions on behalf of the child, such as those pertaining to education, religion, and health care. For instance, you will be able to add your child to your healthcare policy. Both parents will contribute to the child’s needs and will be able to spend time with the child. If a parent dies, the child will be able to inherit your assets and will be eligible for your benefits such as social security.
How to Establish Paternity
In Wisconsin, there are two main ways to establish paternity. These include by acknowledgment and by court order.
Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement
A voluntary paternity acknowledgment is the easiest option. It requires both the mother and father to sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement Form and have it notarized. Parents may opt to complete the form at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth. It is important to note that you should not sign the form unless you are certain of the child’s paternity. Once you establish paternity through this form you will not need to go to court. The father’s name may be placed on the birth certificate.
Either parent may request a paternity hearing. The judge will provide you with the details of your rights and responsibilities. A DNA test will provide results to determine parentage. The genetic test must prove a probability of 99%. Generally, you will not need to pay for the paternity test unless you are proven to be the parent. A presumptive father can object to the test; however, it is difficult to argue with scientific results. An experienced attorney will assist you through the process to protect your rights.
The process to establish paternity is greatly complicated when the mother is married to someone else at the time she gives birth. The law presumes that the husband is the child’s father, but there are some legal steps you can take to resolve the matter.
Establishing paternity is an important part of a child’s life and will have a lifelong impact on both you and the child. It is helpful to seek legal guidance to assist you to establish paternity. Call our skilled legal team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. at (608) 784-8310 or email us to schedule an initial consultation.