Paternity is the legal relationship between a father and his child. Paternity is what gives a father custodial rights such as the right to visitation with his child. Paternity also requires a father to provide financial support for his child. Paternity must be legally established, however, before these rights and responsibilities go into effect.
When parents of a child are married, or when a child is born within 300 days of a marriage ending, paternity is automatically established between the husband and child. But when a child's parents aren't married to one another, paternity must be legally established. This article will explain how to establish paternity in Wyoming.
The easiest way to establish paternity for unmarried parents in Wyoming is for both parents to agree on paternity and sign documents swearing that the alleged father is the biological parent of the child. If there's a question about whom the father is, a court can determine paternity.
In Wyoming, paternity can also be established if the parents get married after the birth of the child, and the father agrees to be named on the child's birth certificate and promises to support the child as his own. Paternity can also be established if the father lives in the same household with the child for the first two years of the child's life and openly claims the child as his own.
If the mother of a child and the man claiming to be the biological father of the child agree, they can sign an "Acknowledgement of Paternity" form to establish the man's paternity. The acknowledgement of paternity has to state that there's no other legally established father, that the parents agree, and that both parents have been informed of the rights and responsibilities that come with acknowledging paternity. In Wyoming, the acknowledgement form can be signed before the child is born. The form must be filed with the state office of vital records to establish paternity.
An alleged father of a child should not sign an acknowledgement of paternity if he's not certain he's the father. Wyoming allows 60 days to rescind (take back) an acknowledgement of paternity after it's been filed, unless a court has already ordered child support.
If more than 60 days have passed or child support has already been ordered, a man or woman that claims that the acknowledged father is not the biological father has to prove that the acknowledgement was only signed because of fraud, duress, or a material mistake of fact.
A challenge to paternity has to be filed within two years of the time the acknowledgement for paternity was filed with the office of vital records. You should consult an experienced Wyoming family law attorney if you want to challenge paternity more than 60 days after signing an acknowledgement.
If there is no agreement between the child's parents, a court can establish paternity. The person seeking to establish paternity should file a "Petition to Establish Paternity" in the district court of the county where either the mother, alleged father, or child lives.
If you want the court to also address custody, visitation, and child support, you should state that in your petition as well. You'll need to serve a copy of the petition on the other parent; the district court clerk's office can help you with your options to serve the parent.
Any of the following people can file a petition to establish paternity:
The court can order genetic tests to determine the child's father. The parents can agree to paternity after genetic tests, or at any other time during the case. If paternity is still in dispute, a judge will decide whether paternity has been established at a hearing.
The judge can also order legal custody, a visitation schedule, and child support at the paternity hearing, so if you're seeking any such orders, be sure to bring evidence and/or witnesses that are helpful to these issues.
Click here for more information on child support in Wyoming.
There are many benefits to establishing paternity, for both the child and the child's parents. First, a child will benefit by knowing who his or her father is and by having access to both parents' medical histories. Once paternity is established, the child will be entitled to inherit from either parent and will be eligible for benefits from both parents, such as health benefits, veterans' benefits and Social Security.
After paternity has been established, both the mother and the legal father will be financially and legally responsible for their child, which means they should share the financial and emotional costs of raising a child - rather than placing the entire responsibility on just the mother.
A child's alleged father doesn't have the right to any form of legal or physical custody of the child until he establishes his paternity. Once that's taken care of (absent any court-ordered restrictions on custody or visitation), a child's legal parents may share legal and physical custody of their child. If shared custody isn't the best option, parents may enter into some other arrangement to decide who will make major decisions regarding the child's welfare, who will be the custodial parent (the one the child lives with primarily), and how much time the child will spend with the non-custodial parent. If the parents can't agree on custody issues, they will end up in court where a judge will decide.
Click here for more information on child custody in Wyoming.
Contact an experienced local family law attorney if you have additional questions about establishing paternity in Wyoming.
A sample petition to establish paternity is here.
To read the full text of Wyoming law on paternity, see the Wyoming Statutes, Title 14 Chapter 2.
The Wyoming state office of vital records webpage on establishing paternity is here.
Contact information for the district courts for all Wyoming counties is here.