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What is a declaration of paternal interest?

If you father a child in Wisconsin, you have parental rights over that child. However, if you are not married to the mother of a child that you believe to be yours, you must take legal steps to assert your rights or face the possibility of their termination if the mother decides to put the child up for adoption. A declaration of parental interest, also known as a declaration of possible fatherhood, is the first step in the process of asserting your parental rights. 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, a declaration of parental interest is not sufficient in itself to establish your parental rights. Regardless of whether you want to voluntarily terminate your parental rights or protect and establish them, additional action on your part is necessary.

When you file the declaration, however, it adds your name and contact information to the Parental Interest Registry, along with the name and last-known address of the child's mother and the birth date of the child. This may be only approximate since it is common, and often recommended, to file the declaration prior to the birth of the baby. 

Once your name is in the registry, you will receive notice in the event that a court action for termination of parental rights involving your child takes place. If you do not file a declaration of parental interest, there is no guarantee that you will receive such a notice. Nevertheless, you may still receive one if the child's birth certificate lists you as the putative father. Without a declaration, however, the court may issue an order terminating your parental rights without your knowledge or consent, clearing the way for the child's adoption. 

You may file a declaration of parental interest any time prior to the baby's birth. However, there is a 14-day time limit that applies subsequent to the baby's birth date. If you receive a notice of a termination of parental rights court action and do not already have a declaration in place, you have 21 days after the mailing date of the notice to file. You can access the necessary form from the DCF website. To avoid rejection, be sure you fill out the form completely and sign it in the presence of a notary public before submitting it. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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