If you had a child with a woman outside of marriage and you want a legal relationship with the child, you have options. You probably have questions about your rights as a father and if you will play an active role in the life of your child. This key information regarding the process of establishing paternity in Washington will clarify what benefits you can enjoy.
Washington paternity statutes
While you might be the biological father of your child, you are not automatically considered the legal father if your child was born out of wedlock. Thankfully, you have options for becoming the legal father. In the state of Washington, paternity can be established through an acknowledgement or court order.
Acknowledgement of paternity
The best-case scenario is when you and the mother of your child are both certain that you are the biological father. In this case, you can both come to an agreement to establish paternity. This requires both of you to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. You can obtain this document at a local health department or child support office. Once you have the document signed and notarized, you must submit it to the Washington State Department of Health. After a successful filing, your name will be added to your child’s birth certificate
Unfortunately, sometimes there are disputes about paternity that must be resolved through the court. Establishing paternity may become a court issue if the mother disputes your desires. You can initiate the court process by submitting a Petition to Establish Parentage to the Superior Court where your child lives. Depending on whether you and the mother agree about your status of being the biological father, the court may establish paternity immediately or may require a DNA test.
Benefits of paternity
With established paternity, there are benefits for everyone involved. As the father, you will gain legal rights to ask for visitation or custody and be an active participant in the life of your child. Your child will benefit from having a relationship with both parents and having access to medical insurance. The mother will be able to share parenting responsibilities and costs with you.
Just because you and the mother of your child were not married at the time of birth does not mean you have to miss out on being the legal father. If you have more questions about establishing paternity or need assistance, contact a family law attorney to figure out the best route to take.