Dads play a critical role in guiding and supporting their children through the early years of their lives and beyond. As an unmarried father living in Wisconsin or as someone who will soon become a father, you probably want to be there for your child and offer them the best future you can.

Establishing yourself in the life of your child as early as possible and playing a positive and supportive role can benefit you, your child and even the other parent. However, if your relationship with the mother of the child isn’t currently positive, you may not know what you need to do in order to step into that important paternal role.

Let the mother of the child know your intentions

Even if your romantic relationship didn’t work out, both of you should be able to put your personal issues aside and focus on what will be best for your child. Having both parents present in their life will usually be what is healthiest for your kid. She may work with you and agree to acknowledge your paternity once she realizes you intend to show up for your kid.

Establish paternity officially to protect yourself

You don’t want the relationship you develop with your child to be dependent on the mood of the mother.

Whether you negotiate to have your name added to the birth certificate for an as-of-yet unborn child or you ask the mother to execute a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement form to have your name added to the birth certificate later, taking official, legal steps to ensure that the state of Wisconsin recognizes your paternity will be important if your relationship with the mother of your child experiences issues in the future.

If she won’t cooperate in naming you the father of the child, you may need to ask the courts to order genetic testing and establish paternity that way.

Formalize your role through official visitation and possibly child support

Being a father is more than just creating a new life. It is also showing up for your kid at helping meet their needs as they grow and mature. Making a formal parenting plan that includes a visitation schedule or asking the courts for shared custody if you can’t reach informal arrangements with your ex will benefit you, your child and your relationship. Having the court step in to make things official can also mean paying child support if there is a discrepancy in parenting time between you and the mother.