Practicing Attorneys: Renee Read, Jolene Schnieder, Mark Tyckowski
What is a paternity action?
A paternity action is a legal proceeding in which a man is officially deemed to be the father of a child. There is a multitude of reasons for filing a paternity suit. The suit may either be commenced by an alleged father who is seeking custody or placement of a child, a male presumed to be a child’s father, a mother seeking child support, a child seeking to establish a paternal relationship, the state seeking reimbursement for public assistance, or another individual under Wis. Stat. Sec. 767.80(1). Our lawyers at Remley & Sensenbrenner can help you understand how the process works and when it is necessary.
A paternity action begins with the filings of a summons and a petition. Once a suit is filed with the court, the alleged father has to respond to the allegations. If the alleged father has any doubt that he is the father of the child, he should contest the allegations. Accepting the allegations as true, and the court accepting your response, results in the alleged father being permanently recognized as the legal father.
What is the effect of a judgment of paternity?
A judgment of paternity legally recognizes that the child is found to be a child of the man that is found to be the father. It creates a legally recognized parent-child relationship. Once this relationship is formed, there are certain rights and obligations that follow. The man is legally obligated to support the child until the child reaches the age of majority (age 18). The relationship creates a right of inheritance for the child, and also grants certain parental rights to the legal father.
Are there any defenses to a paternity action?
There are defenses available to both alleged fathers, and mothers, once a paternity action is filed. For instance, the alleged father may claim he was sterile or impotent at the time of conception. The mother or alleged father may claim that they and the other party did not have intercourse during the conception period, or either may claim that the mother had intercourse with another man during the conception period.
Wis. Stat. Sec. 767.813(5g)
The party responding to the paternity action filed is required to appear at certain proceedings. An order shall be entered by the court if the respondent does not appear for the return date, scheduled genetic testing, the pretrial hearing, or the trial. Such court order states that the respondent is adjudicated the father, as well as orders for child support, custody, and placement.
When is paternity presumed?
There are certain circumstances in which a male is presumed to be a child’s father. A husband is presumed to be the father of a child born during a lawful marriage, or when a child is born or conceived after marriage and before a decree of separation, annulment, or divorce. Also, a male is presumed to be the father if: he and the mother acknowledged paternity and no other man is presumed to be the father; he is not excluded by genetic testing; or a male and a biological mother were married after the child born but the couple were in a relationship during the conception period and no other man is presumed to be the father (with some exceptions). Wis. Stat. Sec. 891.41.
The above-mentioned presumptions may be rebutted. If there is no presumption of paternity, then the mother shall have sole legal custody of the child until the court orders otherwise.
Can I request genetic testing, or is it required?
All parties have the right to request genetic tests. Upon the request of any party, the court shall require genetic testing. Further, even if no request is made by the parties, the court may either require genetic testing of the child, mother, alleged father, or any male witness who will testify about his sexual relationship with the mother at the possible time of conception.
If a party refuses to submit to a genetic test, that fact will be disclosed to the finder of fact. Further, if the court ordered the genetic test, refusal to submit to the test is a contempt of the court. Lastly, if a mother brings an action for paternity but refuses to submit herself or her child to a genetic test, the action must be dismissed.
If the genetic test results conclude that the alleged father is not excluded, and that the statistical probability of the alleged father’s parentage is 99.0% or higher, the alleged father is presumed to be the child’s parent. On the other hand, results that exclude an alleged father as the father of the child are treated as conclusive evidence of nonpaternity, and the court will dismiss any paternity action with respect to the alleged father.
Are there situations in which paternity will not be determined?
When a child is born to a married woman, and a man other than her husband, alleges that he is the father of the child; then a party may allege that a judicial determination that a male other than the husband is the father is not in the best interest of the child. If such determination is made, then no genetic tests may be ordered and the action shall be dismissed. Wis. Stat. Sec. 767.863(1m).
What is the effect of a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity?
A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity is a document that is signed by a mother and a father, which establishes legal paternity. A statement acknowledging paternity that is on file with the state registrar (and has not been timely rescinded) is a conclusive determination, which has the same effect as a judgment of paternity. Wis. Stat. Sec. 767.805.
Our attorneys can help with your paternity questions and with the process. Call our Neenah office at 920-725-2601 or use our online form to make an appointment.