The information contained on this web page is provided as a courtesy to members of the public, and shall not be construed as legal advice. If you have questions, contact the Wisconsin Bar Association Lawyer Referral and Information Service at 800-362-9082 for additional assistance.

Paternity is the legal fatherhood of a child. For parents who are not married, the father has no legal relationship to the child until paternity is established. There are four ways to establish the paternity of a child: 

  1. Court Action to Establish Paternity - A legal proceeding to determine the paternity of a child and to determine the father's rights and responsibilities. The Court may rule on legal custody, physical placement, child support, health insurance, tax dependency exemption, and repayment of costs/fees. 
  2. Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment (VPA)- A legal form allowing parents to establish paternity without having to go to court. A signed and notarized Wisconsin Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form filed with the Office of Vital Records fully establishes legal paternity. The father's name is then added to the birth certificate.
    • Signing and filing the VPA form does not give a father legal custody or physical placement rights. Under Wisconsin law, an unmarried mother has sole legal custody until a court orders otherwise.
  3. Conclusive Paternity Determination Based on Genetic Test Results- All the conditions below must be met before a man can be conclusively determined to be a child's father:
    • Genetic tests are performed with respect to the child, child's mother, and the alleged father in response to an administrative subpoena issued by the county child support agency requiring the parties to submit to the tests;
    • Test results show that the man is not excluded as the father and that the statistical probability of paternity is 99% or higher;
    • Both the mother and the father are at least 18 years old; and
    • There is no other paternity presumption.
  4. Acknowledgment of Marital Child- A form signed by the parents if the mother and the father get married to each other after their child is born. 
    • Additional information regarding establishing paternity (legal fatherhood). 
    • View additional information regarding establishing paternity (legal fatherhood).

The Clerk of Courts and Family Court staff cannot assist or answer question regarding establishing paternity. There are no standard statewide pro se forms to establish paternity for non-marital children or to commence a court action when parties file a VPA with the State Registrar.

The Wisconsin Child Support Program helps parents establish paternity and get court orders for financial and medical support for their children. Contact the Oconto County Child Support Agency at 920-834-6862 for assistance.