Legal Disclaimer: The following is basic legal information, provided as a public service by Wyoming’s lawyers. The information provided is not a substitute for speaking to an attorney. Only an attorney can give you legal advice regarding your specific situation. Click here for help finding a lawyer.
The father of a child must be legally recognized as a parent before a court or state agency can decide issues such as child custody, visitation, and child support. Also, children whose paternity has been established may be eligible for certain benefits such as Social Security and worker’s compensation, if their fathers are disabled or have died.
Paternity is usually determined to:
Obtain child support from the biological father
Establish the biological father’s right to visitation and custody
Create peace of mind
Establish inheritance rights
Establish insurance claims
Obtain social security benefits
Establish Native American tribal rights
Determine the likelihood of being the biological sibling of a long lost sibling
Seek entry to the US on grounds that he or she is a relative of a citizen
If you are legally recognized as the child’s father, you may have a right to custody of the child or visitation with the child. You may also have a responsibility to pay child support.
A proceeding to adjudicate parentage can be brought by:
The mother of the child
A man whose paternity of the child is to be adjudicated
The child support enforcement agency
An authorized adoption agency or licensed child placing agency
A representative authorized by law to act for an individual who would otherwise be entitled to maintain a proceeding but who is deceased, incapacitated or a minor.
The Wyoming Child Support Enforcement Division can help you obtain a court or agency order to establish paternity if you are seeking a child support order. Child support services are available to the following persons, regardless of need or income, whether or not that person is receiving public assistance or has received public assistance in the past:
Any parent who is owed child support or child support arrears;
Any parent who is ordered to pay child support or owes child support arrears;
Any parent who wants to establish the paternity of their child and/or establish a support obligation for their child; or
Any person who has custody of a child and wants to establish the child’s paternity and/or collect child support, whether or not this person is the child’s parent and whether or not the custodian has been awarded custody by a court.
1. Presumed fatherhood.
The law considers a man married to the mother, either at the time of, or within a certain amount of time of the birth of a child to be presumed to be the biological father of the child. Also, if the man lived with the child for the first two years of the child’s life and openly held the child out as his own, the law will presume that he is the father. Men falling within one of these categories are called the “presumed father”. Certain laws and timelines apply when someone challenges the paternity of a presumed father.
All states now allow a man to voluntarily acknowledge paternity. A man who has a valid acknowledgement is called an “acknowledged father”.
So long as not successfully withdrawn or challenged, a valid acknowledgment of paternity filed with the state office of vital records is the same as having a court order paternity of a child and gives the acknowledged father all of the rights and duties of a parent. The acknowledgement of paternity has to be signed by the mother and by the man seeking to establish his paternity.
An acknowledgement of paternity generally takes effect upon the birth of the child or the filing of the document with the state office of vital records, whichever occurs later.
An acknowledgement is not valid if there is another man who the law presumes to be father unless a valid denial of paternity signed by the presumed father or a court order rebutting the presumption is filed with the state office of vital records.
An acknowledgement is not valid if it states that another man is an acknowledged or adjudicated father; or if it falsely denies the existence of a presumed, acknowledged or adjudicated father of the child.
There are very detailed procedures for acknowledging or admitting paternity as well as for denying paternity of a child (this usually occurs when the husband of the natural mother is not the biological father of her child).
“Signing the birth certificate”. If a man’s name is on the birth certificate, a voluntary acknowledgement was likely signed and filed with the Vital Records Division of the state government. You may need to get a copy of the acknowledgement of paternity if there is a case to decide custody and/or child support.
W.S. 14-2-601 et seq.
Before a mother and a man claiming to be the genetic father of the child can sign an acknowledgment of paternity affidavit, the mother and the alleged father shall be provided notice orally or through the use of video or audio equipment and in writing of the alternatives to, the legal consequences of, and the rights and responsibilities that arise from, signing the acknowledgment of paternity affidavit.
Yes, an acknowledgment of paternity or a denial of paternity may be signed before the birth of the child.
For an acknowledgment of paternity to be valid it should:
be in a record,
be signed or otherwise authenticated under penalty for false swearing by the mother and by the man seeking to establish his paternity,
state that the child whose paternity is being acknowledged does not have a presumed father or has a presumed father whose full name is stated and does not have another acknowledged or adjudicated father
state whether there has been genetic testing and if so, that the acknowledging man’s claim of paternity is consistent with the results of the testing and
state that the people who sign the acknowledgment understand that the acknowledgment is the equivalent of a judicial adjudication of paternity of the child and that a challenge to the acknowledgment is permitted only under limited circumstances and is barred after two years
If I sign an affidavit acknowledging paternity, do I also need to seek a court order establishing me as the adjudicated father?
No, a valid acknowledgment of paternity filed with the state office of vital records is equivalent to an adjudication of paternity of a child and gives the acknowledged father all of the rights and duties of a parent.
An action to adjudicate the parentage of a child, having a presumed father shall be brought within a reasonable amount of time after information arises that questions the presumption of paternity. However, in no event can the action be brought later than 5 years after the child’s birth.
Additionally, parentage of a presumed father can be questioned at any time if the court determines that the presumed father and the mother of the child neither lived together nor engaged in sexual intercourse with each other during the probable time of conception AND the presumed father never openly held out the child as his own.
To rescind (take back) a voluntary paternity acknowledgement a separate action must be filed not more than 60 days after the paternity action was signed or paternity hearing took place. Rescinding a paternity acknowledgement after can be a very complicated process. Thus, it is advised that you consult an attorney. Click here for help finding a lawyer.
What if I change my mind after signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form, but the 60 days has already passed?
After the 60 day period has passed, a man who has signed his acknowledgment or denial of paternity may begin an action to challenge the acknowledgment or denial only if:
He can show the acknowledgment or denial was done on the basis of fraud, duress or material mistake AND
If the action is within two years after the acknowledgment or denial is filed with the state office of vital records
Is a genetic test necessary in order to rescind an acknowledgment after the 60 day time period has expired?
Yes, paternity of a presumed, adjudicated, or acknowledged father can only be disproved by admissible results of a genetic test that excludes that man as the father of the child or identifies another man as the father of the child.
Yes, a presumed father may sign a denial of his paternity. However, the denial is valid only if an acknowledgment of paternity signed by another man is filed with the court, the denial is in a record, signed or otherwise authenticated under penalty of perjury, and the presumed father has not previously acknowledged his paternity or been adjudicated to be the father of the child.
What if my wife denied that she was married so that she could have another man sign acknowledgment of paternity?
An acknowledgment of paternity is void if it falsely denies the existence of a presumed, acknowledged or adjudicated father of the child.
If you want a legal and enforceable right to visit the child, you must be legally established as the father. If you were married to the child’s mother when the child was born or if the child was born within 300 days after the marriage ended, the law considers you to be the father (unless your divorce judgment says otherwise). If you were not married to the child’s mother when the child was conceived, you will have to establish paternity of the child and seek visitation rights. You can always try to make arrangements with the child’s mother regarding visitation.