A paternity (“fatherhood”)case is a method of legally deciding who is the father of a child. Paternity can also be established without court action.

Wisconsin hospitals have a form that the unmarried parents can sign to establish paternity without having to go to court. For more information on establishing paternity out of court, go to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families’ Establishing Legal Fatherhood page.

In paternity cases, the Commissioner makes findings and grant judgments of paternity, which include orders concerning child custody and periods of placement, child support, and issues relating to repayment of governmental agencies for medical, care, or other costs advanced for the child. A paternity action is begun by the filing of a Summons and Petition with the court. Either the mother or the father may begin a paternity action. The Green County Child Support Office is involved in bringing many paternity actions in Green County.

In many paternity actions, the alleged father requests genetic tests to determine if the child is his child. DNA testing is done by swabbing cells from the inside of the cheek. If anyone in a paternity case wants DNA testing done before paternity is established, the Commissioner will order it done.

Once paternity is established, if there is disagreement as to custody or placement, the Commissioner may refer the parties to mediation. The first session of mediation is done at no cost to the parties. If the parties can’t reach an agreement in mediation, the Commissioner may appoint a Guardian ad Litem to represent the best interests of the children. Typically, each party is ordered to pay a $500 deposit to the Guardian ad Litem’s trust account as advance payment of fees. The Guardian ad Litem will investigate the case and report to the Commissioner and the parties on the issues of legal custody and physical placement.

In any case where there are issues surrounding the children, the Family Court Commissioner may refer the parties to parental education classes to help the parents to learn about the effect the case can have on their children. Parents in paternity actions are currently referred to www.uptoparents.org, a free online parenting education site.

After the final judgment of paternity the Commissioner may holds hearings and enters orders concerning enforcement or modification of the final order. Common issues include enforcement of custody and placement orders, insurance coverage, and child support.