Wisconsin Paternity Laws

A paternity action is the court process that establishes who the father of a child is. If paternity was not established through marriage or acknowledgment, there needs to be a conclusive paternity determination based on genetic test results. Once paternity is established, the father can be put onto the birth certificate.
Wisconsin Paternity Laws

Starting a Paternity Case

There are two main times when a paternity case is filed: Either the two parties disagree on who the father is, or one party is looking to get child support from the other.

Paternity for Custody

If a father wants custody of a child and the mother doesn’t think he is the father, the father needs to establish paternity. This is usually done through a genetic test as part of a paternity case.

Paternity for Child Support

If someone has a child and wants the other party to pay child support, they need to establish that that other party is the father. Once the other party is proven to be the father, they are on the hook for child support, and they are also able to get custody and placement of the child.

Paternity Laws Wisconsin

The Paternity Process

This section covers what it looks like to go through a contested paternity case. If the paternity is uncontested, meaning both parties agree on who the father is, then there is no need for a paternity case.
For more information on this process and the subsequent process of child custody determinations, visit our page outlining what it looks like to work with us from start to finish.

Step 1


When you file your case, be sure to use the correct paperwork. If you want help with the paperwork, your attorney can take care of it.

Step 2

Court Hearing

After filing, the court schedules a hearing that both parties must attend. At the hearing, the court explains the potential father’s rights and responsibilities. If he wants genetic testing to prove whether he is the father, he can ask for it at this hearing.

Step 3

Paternity Test

What is commonly known as a paternity test, the court needs a conclusive paternity determination based on genetic test results to prove someone is the father of a child. An at home test is not enough, so the court will order the test to be done in a medical setting they approved.

Step 4

Child Custody

If the person tested really was the father, then a child custody case comes next. In the child custody process, parties will make a plan on how to move forward with child custody, child placement, and child support.

For immediate help with your family law case, call now
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Key Components

Outside of this page, you’ve certainly heard a lot about paternity and child custody. And all that information must have led to some questions.

Here are some answers and links to pages with more information. For advice specific to your case, call Sterling Lawyers.

Establishing Paternity

There are four ways to establish paternity: voluntary acknowledgement, marital presumption, court ruling, or genetic testing. For more information on how each of these work, read our article on Establishing Paternity in Wisconsin.

Why Establish Paternity

The main reason to establish paternity is so that the father has rights to their child and can be a part of their child’s life. Other reasons to establish paternity include anything from getting child support to the child knowing their medical history to keeping the child from being adopted.

How Custody Works

The Wisconsin child custody laws outline how the court determines child custody. Custody is the parents’ ability to make major decisions in the child’s life. The court assumes that both parents will share custody unless one parent is unfit to take care of a child.

Placement Schedules

Placement refers to who the child spends each day with. There are many different placement schedules and the best one for your family will depend on each party’s needs and schedules.

Child Support

One parent pays child support when there is an imbalance in income or in placement time. Child support is meant to support the child and create positive living situations with both parents. How much child support a party pays can be calculated using our child support calculator.

Child Custody

Figuring out all the logistics surrounding a child is never easy. We strive to prepare you as best as possible, and having an attorney at your side will only make the process easier. Ultimately, any decisions are made based on what is in the child’s best interest.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can paternity of a child be established?

Paternity can be established with the voluntary acknowledgement of paternity at the time of the child’s birth. If this is not done, you can establish paternity through a court action.

How much does a paternity test cost in Wisconsin?

Usually, a paternity test is under $50 for each party, but it varies depending on the county as each county uses different providers. In the case, the paternity test is paid for by the county. But if the court knows that either party has enough money to pay for the paternity tests at the end of the case, that party will reimburse the county.

What does paternity post adjudication mean in Wisconsin?

Post adjudication simply means after the initial paternity case. This is used to refer to the fact that after paternity is legally established, the father has rights to the child. These rights allow the father to request custody and placement.

What happens once paternity is established?

After paternity is established, the case transforms into a child custody case. In the custody case, parents figure out who has the child when, who makes decisions for the child, and if either party needs child support.

Do I have to put the father on the birth certificate in Wisconsin?

You do not need to put the father on the birth certificate if you are not sure whether he is the father. The father will be put on the birth certificate if he is there at the time of birth and establishes paternity. If paternity is established later, the father can request to be put on the birth certificate retroactively.
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