There are two basic ways that you can establish paternity in the state of Washington. Parents of a child who are unmarried can sign an Affidavit of Paternity, which is a document that legally establishes paternity for the child under Washington law. The Affidavit is sent to the Washington State Department of Health, which then adds the father’s name to the child’s birth certificate. If you sign an Affidavit, then you are voluntarily stating that you are the child’s father and there is no need for DNA testing.
On the other hand, if you have any doubts about whether you are the father of a child, you should not sign the Affidavit. Instead, you should initiate a paternity case by filing a petition to establish paternity with your local county clerk’s office. Whether you initiate the paternity case yourself, the mother initiates the case, or the State initiates the case, you will have the chance to request genetic (DNA) testing through this process. Undergoing DNA testing is very common in paternity cases. DNA testing determines whether or not an individual is the father of a child with nearly 100% accuracy.
If you signed the Affidavit of Paternity, and then discover that you are not the father of the child, you only have 60 days from the date that the Affidavit was filed with the Department of Health to file a court action asking to have the Affidavit rescinded. If you file within this timeframe and the court grants your order, you are free to file a paternity petition and request genetic testing.
If more than 60 days have passed since the Affidavit was filed with the Department of Health, you may still be able to file a petition challenging the Affidavit. You have four years from the date that the Affidavit was filed with the Department of Health in order to challenge the Affidavit. In order to successfully challenge the Affidavit, you must prove to the court that you signed the Affidavit due to fraud, duress, or mistake of fact.
At Pacific Northwest Family Law, we know how stressful, emotional, and downright draining paternity, divorce, and other family law proceedings concerning children can be. If you are facing a paternity or family law case, you need the advice and guidance of an attorney with a strong background in family law issues. Contact our office today, schedule a meeting with an experienced Washington paternity attorney at Pacific Northwest Family Law, and learn how we can help you with your family law case.