Previous posts on this blog have talked about how Wisconsin parents can use what is called an Acknowledgement of Paternity form in order for a dad to establish paternity over a child born when he was not legally married to the child’s mother. This form can be a real blessing to parents who may have every intention of raising their child together. However, before signing this form, it is important for both parents, and men in particular, to understand what the form legally does and does not do.

Upon validly signing and processing the form, the man who signed the form is deemed the legal father of the child named on the form. In other words, nothing further needs to be done to establish paternity. Again, this could well be the best option in many cases, but a man should remember that once he signs the form it can be very difficult to come back later and say that the child is legally not his.

On the other hand, all an Acknowledgement of Paternity form does is create a legal relationship between a man and a child. The form does not give the father any legal right to have parenting time with the child or to help with decision-making. He will either have to go to court to get an order establishing these rights, or he will have to rely on the good graces of the child’s mother.

The flip side of this is that the form does not automatically establish a child support order. That, too, requires a separate legal process.

Signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity form is an important legal and family decision, which can have long-lasting consequences. It is not the right step for everyone, and anyone in the greater Milwaukee area with questions about these matters should consider speaking with an experienced family law attorney.