Family Court - Paternity Information

Paternity is used when two unmarried people have child together.  It determines who a child’s father is and creates rights and responsibilities for that person.  There are two ways to establish paternity:

  • A paternity acknowledgment
  • A paternity action

If public funds (Medicaid, Badgercare, etc.) paid for the child’s birth or if the child’s parent receives public assistance after the birth, the Rock County Child Support Office will commence an action for paternity or support of the child.  If there is no public assistance involved, either parent may start an action.

Paternity Acknowledgment

Wisconsin hospitals have a form that the unmarried parents can sign to establish paternity without having to go to court. Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment is the easiest way for an unmarried father to put his name on his baby’s birth certificate. The other ways involve the courts.

By signing the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form, both parents agree that the man signing the form is the father. 

Signing this form legally establishes paternity. This means the court may make orders for child support, legal custody, physical placement or tax exemption regarding the child.  This form does not give the father legal custody or physical placement. It does not require either parent to provide financial support for the child.  If the father and mother cannot agree on these issues, they will need to get a court order.

To cancel the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment, either the mother or the father may file a Request to Withdraw Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form within 60 days of filing the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form and before a court orders child support. If the parent is under 18 when signing the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form and a court has not yet ordered child support, the parent may file the Request to Withdraw Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form within 60 days after turning 18. The Request to Withdraw Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form is available from the birth hospital, child support agency and the state Office of Vital Records. Check the Request to Withdraw Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form for fee information.

Once there is a valid Paternity Acknowledgment on file, an action for support, legal custody and placement of the child may be started.  In this action, the court will make orders regarding legal custody and periods of placement, child support, tax dependency exemption and issues relating to repayment of governmental agencies for medical, care, or other costs advanced for the child.  If the Rock County Child Support Office started the action, the initial hearing will take place on Friday afternoon the Courtroom L of the Rock County Courthouse.  If one of the parties started the action, that person will have to schedule a temporary hearing with the Family Court Commissioner’s office.

If there is disagreement as to issues of custody or placement of minor children, the commissioner may refer the parties to mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful, the judge may appoint a Guardian ad Litem to represent the best interests of the children. Typically, each party is required to pay a $250 deposit to Rock County as advance payment of fees. The Guardian ad Litem will investigate the case and make a recommendation to the judge and the parties on the issues of legal custody and physical placement.  A final hearing will need to be scheduled with the judge.

Commencing a Paternity Action

A paternity action is commenced by filing a summons and petition with the court.  Often, the mother, the father, or the Rock County Child Support Office starts the paternity action.

After a paternity action is started, the parties will attend an initial appearance.  If the Rock County Child Support Office started the action, the initial appearance will be on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. in the Jury Assembly Room of the Rock County Courthouse.  If one of the parties started the paternity action, that person will have to schedule an initial appearance with the Family Court Commissioner’s office.

At the initial appearance the parties may request genetic testing to determine if the child is the alleged father’s child. Genetic tests are usually DNA tests and often do not involve drawing blood from anyone.  Instead, cells are taken from the inside of the cheek and compared.  You must have a court order for genetic testing.  The samples are taken on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. in the Jury Assembly Room of the Rock County Courthouse.  There is a fee associated with the tests.

Once the genetic testing is complete, the judge will schedule the matter for a hearing to implement judgment.  At this hearing the court will make orders regarding legal custody and periods of placement, child support, tax dependency exemption and issues relating to repayment of governmental agencies for medical, care, or other costs advanced for the child.

If there is disagreement as to issues of custody or placement of minor children, the judge may refer the parties to mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful, the judge may appoint a Guardian ad Litem to represent the best interests of the children. Typically, each party is required to pay a $250 deposit to Rock County as advance payment of fees. The Guardian ad Litem will investigate the case and make a recommendation to the judge and the parties on the issues of legal custody and physical placement.
 

 

Rock County, State of Wisconsin
All Rights Reserved