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In this article we will be reviewing Child Custody and Parenting Rights of Unmarried Fathers in Wisconsin answer the questions of:  What Is Paternity?, How Can a Father Establish Paternity Over His Child?, What is a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage?, What If it is Not Certain Who the Father is?, Do Unwed Fathers Have a Right to Parenting Time?, Can Parental Rights Be Established without Filing a Court Case?, Once Paternity Is Established, What Is Expected of the Father?, and Can You Have Parenting Time If the Mother Does Not Want You Around the Child?

Wisconsin takes father’s rights very seriously. The legislature has enacted a series of laws designed to protect a father’s rights to the minor child. In this article, we will be reviewing Child Custody and Wisconsin Parenting Rights of Unmarried Fathers.  

What Is Paternity?

Paternity is the legal determination establishing the parents of the Minor Child. A finding or determination of parentage establishes legal rights with the Minor Child for parental responsibility and support.

How Can a Father Establish Paternity Over His Child?

Wisconsin allows for paternity to be established through one of three methods:

  1. A Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage.
  1. Parentage is established through a court order.
  1. The parents could sign an acknowledgment of a marital child if the parents were married after the birth of the minor child.  

What is a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage?

A Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage is a form that can be used by a Father of a child born out of wedlock to bind themselves as the parent of a child legally. This form has the same force and effect as a court order establishing paternity. Once the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity is signed, it cannot be reversed.  

What If it is Not Certain Who the Father is?

Any person who thinks he may be the father of a minor child is entitled to seek genetic testing through the court to confirm the child’s parentage. Suppose there is any question related to who may be the father. In that case, it is strongly recommended that genetic testing be conducted as soon as possible. If a person signs a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage prior to genetic testing, the Acknowledgement will remain in effect even if the genetic testing determines that you are not the father. It is crucial to do the testing before signing any forms.  

Do Unwed Fathers Have a Right to Parenting Time?

Yes, fathers have a right to be in their child’s life to help raise them to their best abilities. The State has recognized that the child has a right to have both parents in their lives, and the court will make the best efforts to ensure that parenting time for both parents is established.  

Can Parental Rights Be Established without Filing a Court Case?

Yes, through the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage as described above. This form will not establish a visitation schedule or child support obligations, so it will still be necessary to start a case in court to determine those issues if the parents cannot agree.    

Once Paternity Is Established, What Is Expected of the Father?

Once paternity has been established, it is expected that a father will care for and support his child in every way possible. This care includes providing child support, contributing towards expenses, being involved in significant decision-making, and helping to raise the child.  

Can You Have Parenting Time If the Mother Does Not Want You Around the Child?

Yes. The child is entitled to have both parents in their life. Having parents who do not cooperate reasonably can make that situation more difficult, but neither parent can exclude the other from the child’s life without the court ordering such a restriction.


Determining your rights as a father can be an intimidating process. Having the proper legal counsel can make all the difference. Call our office at (630) 324-6666, email info@flaherty-law.com, or schedule a consultation with one of our experienced Wisconsin family law attorneys today. You can also fill out our confidential contact form, and a member of our team will be in touch with you.  

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