We hear it often from our Beloit family law clients: fathering a child is among the most rewarding experiences of a person’s life. Becoming a father means joys and responsibilities you likely haven’t yet experienced prior to having a son or daughter.
But, unfortunately, this new world can potentially become disrupted for an unwed dad.
What happens if you’ve just become a father, but you’re not married? Where do you stand legally in the life of your child?
Establish Paternity in Order to Assert Your Parental Rights
As an unmarried father, you must establish paternity in order to be legally recognized as your child’s parent. The easiest way to do this is to sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement, immediately after your child is born. (Don’t do this, however, if you have any doubt of your biological paternity. Speak with an experienced Beloit Family Law attorney about your options in this case.)
Once your biological paternity has been determined, you must then formally petition the court.
If you did sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement, you’ll initiate a paternity acknowledgement action under 767.805 Wis. Stats.
An action includes sending the mother a summons, petition, notice of motion, and a motion for a court hearing, and affidavit in support. (Please note that you should also submit a confidential petition addendum in order to maintain the privacy of yours and your child’s vital statistics.)
What If You Did Not Sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement?
In this case, you’ll have to petition the court and prove biologically that you’re the child’s father. This can happen one of two ways:
- The child’s mother can agree that you are in fact the biological dad.
- If the child’s mother doesn’t recognize you to be the father, the court will order genetic testing.
What Happens in Court?
Once in court you’ll ask the court commissioner or judge to verify that you are the biological father, determine issue of custody, placement and child support.
Though determining paternity can be fairly straightforward, any mishandling of the process can have effects that last a lifetime.
As always, be sure to work closely with an experienced attorney that can help you navigate the legal process and who will advocate for your parental rights. These rights can include receiving meaningful periods of child placement, and having a voice in the decisions that affect your child’s life.
For a free initial consultation with a Beloit Family Law or Rockford Family Law attorney,contact The Fitzgerald Law Firm today. We recognize that not everyone is capable of meeting during traditional business hours—let us know a time that’s convenient and we’ll do our best to accommodate you.
Photo Credit: Julien Haler