When a child is born to married parents, there is no need for either parent to take steps to establish their parental rights; Washington law presumes that a child born during a marriage is the legal child of both the mother and the father. When a child is born outside of a marriage, however, a father needs to take steps to establish paternity in order to become the legal father of the child. Furthermore, a father must establish paternity in order to have any legal parental rights, such as custody or visitation that is established in a parenting plan.

One way to establish paternity is by signing a Paternity Acknowledgment, which is the easiest, quickest, and most inexpensive way to establish paternity. After a notary public signs the Paternity Acknowledgment form, it must be filed with the Washington Department of Health (DOH). Parents usually sign the Paternity Acknowledgment shortly after the child’s birth in the hospital. You also may obtain the form at your local health department office or Division of Child Support office (DCS). If you sign the Paternity Acknowledgment form within five days of the child’s birth, there is no charge to file the form with the DOH. Signing a Paternity Acknowledgment form is often the best choice when both parents are positive that the man is the biological father of the child.

The other way to establish paternity is by obtaining a court order. Choosing this method of establishment is likely to be a lengthier and more difficult means of establishing paternity. However, establishment by court order is often the best way to go if the man is unsure if he is the biological father of the child, or if there is more than one possible father of the child. Establishing paternity by court order also may be necessary if the mother’s current spouse will not cooperate with the process of establishing paternity by Paternity Acknowledgment. In a court proceeding, the court may order the parties and the child to undergo genetic testing in order to determine the identity of the child’s biological father. There may be costs associated with genetic testing, which is another disadvantage of establishing paternity by court order.

Pacific Northwest Family Law knows how to handle all of the different issues that Washington family law cases involve, including issues related to the paternity of a child. We understand how emotional and stressful these types of cases can be, which is why we are here to help guide you through your family law proceedings. Contact our offices today to set up an appointment with one of our Washington family law attorneys and see what we can do to help with your case.