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Paternity actions are court cases that are used to establish certain rights for and to a child when the parents were not married to each other at the time of the birth and have not since married. Just some of those rights include:

  • Establishing and collecting child support through the child support system
  • Establishing Legal Custody and Physical Placement rights for the father
  • Health Insurance for the child through the father,
  • Inheritance and Social Security benefits of the father's in the event of his death.

The Family Court does not provide procedural assistance to individuals needing to start Paternity actions, however, parties have the following two other options:

  • Contact the Racine County Child Support Division to find out more information about how to have an attorney assist in the process (an application must be completed and a minimal fee may be required depending on the case). If you are receiving certain types of Public Assistance, the Child Support Division may start this process without either party requesting it.
  • Contact a Private Attorney to assist in the process.
  • The Racine County Paternity Handbook includes information for the following: paternity procedures, issues that may arise in a paternity case, and resources that are available to families.

It is important to establish paternity for a child. When paternity is established, the child is entitled to child support, medical insurance, and inheritance rights. In addition, the child could be eligible for social security benefits or veterans benefits if the father died or became disabled. Paternity establishment also ensures that a child has access to the family medical health history. It also affords the father his rights to custody and placement issues.

Paternity can be determined by:

  1. Both parents signing and filing a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement
    • A form that is signed and filed with the state registrar that serves as proof of paternity. Once the form is filed, the father’s name will be on the child’s birth certificate. The court is then able to make orders regarding custody and placement of the child, payment of child support, etc.
  2. Both parents enter into a Stipulation
    • Both parents enter into a legal agreement that establishes paternity with the Racine County Child Support Department. As part of the stipulation, provisions for custody, placement, child support, and medical insurance, payment of uninsured medical expenses and birth costs and tax exemption will be entered. The stipulation is then sent to the court for approval. Again, once the stipulation is approved and is filed with the court, it is a legally binding document.
  3. Court Action
    • An action to determine the paternity of a child may be started by the child, the child's natural mother, a man presumed to be the father because he is married to the mother, a man alleging himself to be the father of the child, the legal or physical custodian of the child, the State of Wisconsin, a Guardian ad 2 Litem appointed for the child, or a grandparent of the child who may be responsible for supporting the child. The paternity action is begun by filing a Summons and Petition which must be served on the Respondent to the action. The person to be served is usually the alleged father, or it could be the mother or both the mother and alleged father, depending on who has started the action

When the paternity adjudication occurs, whether it was by stipulation or before the court commissioner, the child support department will prepare the findings of fact, conclusions of law and judgment of paternity in a single document which will include any stipulations made. If the case is brought through private attorneys, the petitioner’s attorney is responsible for preparing the judgment. It is important that you read the findings of fact, conclusions of law and judgment of paternity and understand your rights and responsibilities under the paternity judgment. 

If you have a court case number and Paternity has already been established (you have a Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Judgment of Paternity signed by the court) your case is considered “Post-Judgment.” This means any enforcement (Contempt) actions or modifications you would like to pursue in family court are made the same way as post-judgment divorces and legal separations.