If you got a child with a woman you are not married to, your legal position as the biological father is not automatic. However, the law provides these fathers with options that they can choose depending on the uniqueness of their situation.

If you are unsure about the most appropriate route to establish paternity, get in touch with Tri-Cities family law attorneys for legal guidance. Your concerns about whether you will play an active role in your child’s life and your rights as a father are all valid.

How Can I Establish Parentage Without a Court Order?

Establishing paternity is easier and faster when both you and the mother of your child have no doubts about you being the biological father of the child. In such cases, the birth mother and father simply need to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity to establish your legal rights.

The document that you need in the establishment of paternity can be obtained at the local child support or health department office. You can ask a Tri-Cities paternity attorney to guide you through the process. You can take the signed and notarized document to the Washington State Department of Health, and they will add your name to the child’s birth certificate.

When Is a Court Order Needed?

Sometimes, a court order might be necessary to establish the parentage of the father. The process begins when you file a petition in court, followed by a hearing and a determination after that. It happens when:

  • There are questions about who the parent is
  • The birth parent/ mother wants to remove or add parent(s) on the child’s birth certificate
  • The parties have disagreed or are unwilling to sign the Denial of Parentage or Acknowledgement of Parentage form

The Department of Health needs specific information to identify and change the birth record, as directed by the court order. They will need:

  • The child’s full legal name, as it appears in the birth record
  • The child’s date of birth
  • The birth parent/mother’s full name, as it appears in the birth record
  • The place of birth, full name, and date of birth for the person being added to the child’s birth record as a parent

What Are the Benefits of Establishing Paternity?

Establishing paternity is beneficial to both the parents and the minor. For instance, if paternity is established:

  • The child can inherit from both of their parents
  • The child can have a relationship with their extended family
  • The child will benefit from the medical and family history from both sides of the family
  • The child can benefit from the financial support of both parents
  • The minor can grow up knowing both of their parents and establish a bond with both of them
  • The mother gets someone to look to for help with parenting the child
  • The father can have a regular relationship (in most circumstances)

What Happens If I Don’t Think I Am The Father?

If you went ahead and signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity but realize that you were wrong, it is critical to speak to a paternity attorney for fathers serving in Spokane, Walla Walla, and Richland. Unless in limited circumstances, you will need to file for court action within four years of the child’s birth.

If you hesitate and the crucial period passes, you might be held liable as the child’s father. It doesn’t matter whether you are the child’s biological father or not; you may be required to cater to the child’s support and other parental responsibilities. The court also bases its decision on whether changing the parentage is in the minor’s best interest.

Can I get Paternal Rights if I Helped Raise the Child?

If you helped raise a child despite not being their biological parent, the court could establish you as the De Facto Parent in Washington. Here is what the court might consider:

  • If you held out the child as your own
  • If you took up the permanent and total responsibilities of a father without expecting any form of financial compensation
  • If you were consistent in your caretaking responsibilities
  • If you lived in the same house as the child, as a regular household member for a significant period
  • If you bonded with the child and established a dependent relationship that is of parental nature
  • If one of the child’s parent supported the parental relationship
  • If continuing with the relationship is beneficial for the child

Consider contacting a Tri-Cities paternity attorney if you think you might qualify as a De Facto father. Such arrangements are helpful when couples break up and one parent wants to continue being in the child’s life. It is also beneficial in lesbian and gay relationships. Notably, a minor can still have two biological parents and an additional De Facto parent.

What Happens to a Father’s Rights in Adoption?

Adoption generally disestablishes a parent or a set of parents as the legal parents of a child and establishes another parent or a set of parents as the legal parents. The types of adoptions in Washington include:

  • Full Adoption– A couple takes up the role of parents who cannot care for the child or a child with no parents.
  • Step-Parent Adoption– One parent’s spouse adopts the child and steps into the place of the biological parent.
  • Open Adoption Contract– The former parents are allowed to maintain the relationship they want to have with the child.

Adoption removes the rights and responsibilities of a legal parent from the former parent(s) and bestows them on the new parents. Notably, in open adoption, the biological parents can retain some rights.

Aggressive Legal Representation for Tri-Cities, WA Fathers

No father should miss out on being a legal father regardless of their circumstances. Your role is equally vital in the minor’s life, and a family lawyer in Tri-Cities can help you fight for it.

We can ensure that you become an active participant in their life. You will enjoy custody and visitation rights and also participate in taking care of the child financially. If you need guidance or still have more questions about establishing parentage, call (509) 572-3700 to book an appointment with us.