When a child is born out to unmarried parents (also known as "out of wedlock"), the process to create the legal relationship between the father and child begins with establishing paternity. Children born to unmarried parents benefit from the process to establish parentage in many ways including:

  • knowing both parents so they can be involved in the child's upbringing;
  • being able to receive financial support from both parents;
  • having future inheritance benefits;
  • being a beneficiary on a life insurance policy;
  • being eligible for government benefits such as veteran's dependent benefits and social security; and
  • qualifying for medical benefits.

Paternity can be established on a voluntary basis when the parties sign and file the Paternity Acknowledgment.

Outside of the voluntary paternity acknowledgment process, a court determines legal parentage. When the case is filed, the court can order the parties to submit to a blood test to determine the whether a man is the biological father of the child. After that, the court can decide issues related to child support and a parenting plan for time-sharing.

Attorneys for Paternity in Seattle, WA

The attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson help both mothers and fathers establish paternity for their child. We also help our client establish a parenting plan and child support order. Call us to find out how to establish paternity and determine all of the rights and responsibilities that come with that legal determination.

Our Seattle family law attorneys represent clients in paternity actions throughout all of King County including Kent, Seattle, North Bend, Mercer Island, Bellevue, Issaquah, Vashon Island and Maury Island. We also represent clients in paternity cases in Snohomish County and Pierce County.

Call (206) 712-2756 to discuss your case.

Washington's Uniform Parentage Act of 2002

Under Washington's Uniform Parentage Act of 2002, being married to the mother when a child is born gives rise to a presumption of paternity. RCW 26.26.116(1)(a). The presumption of parentage established under RCW 26.26.116(1)(a) can only be rebutted by a court order declaring non-parentage after receiving clear and convincing evidence. In the absence of an order declaring non-parentage, the presumed father is still the father of the child.

A Court Order is Required to Overcome the Presumption of Parenthood

In most cases, a court order is required to overcome the presumption of parenthood even though a party generally has standing to pursue an action when he is within the zone of interests protected by a statute and has suffered an injury in fact. IRCW 26.10.030(2) requires that notice of a child custody proceeding shall be given to the child's parent, guardian and custodian, who may appear and be heard and may file a responsive pleading.

This statute puts the parents within the zone of interests for first party standing. Under the Uniform Parentage Act, a presumed parent is entitled to seek custody of their minor child on equal footing with the biological mother.

Washington courts have upheld the statutory presumption of paternity under RCW 26.26.116(1)(a) despite clear evidence disproving the presumptive parent as the biological parent. In these cases, it is important to seek out a court order when necessary to overcome the presumption of parenthood.

Washington's New Laws on Paternity 

In 2011, the Washington Legislature changed the laws for establishing paternity. Under the new law, the name of the paternity establishment form has been changed from a Paternity Affidavit to Paternity Acknowledgment.

Either the father or the mother can change their mind within a limited period of time. The legal term for changing your mind is called a rescission. Under Washington's new paternity law, the right to rescind the Paternity Acknowledgement is extended. To rescind the signature on the Paternity Acknowledgement, the person who signed the form must initiate a court action 60 days after the Paternity Acknowledgement is filed with Department of Health (DOH), Center for Health Statistics (CHS).

A Paternity Acknowledgment signed by a minor is legal. Under Washington law, minors who are under the age of 18 year old who sign the form have the same rights and degree of responsibility as an adult. If the person signing the Paternity Acknowledgement was a minor child when the Paternity Acknowledgment was signed, however, that person has the ability to rescind the acknowledgment on or before that person's 19th birthday.

Challenge Period Extended from 2 to 4 Years

The new paternity laws in Washington State also extended the challenge period from two (2) years to four (4) years. After the rescission period ends, the parent can still challenge the acknowledgment in court, but the grounds for recision are more limited. Those reasons can include factual mistake, duress, or fraud. The parent initiates the action in the Superior Court within four years from the date the acknowledgment is filed with DOH/CHS.

If either the presumed father or the mother wants to file an action to challenge the Paternity Acknowledgment in court, you only have four (4) years from the date it was filed with the DOH to begin that process.

Challenges Filed after Child Turns 2 Years Old

If the child is more than two years old when the challenge is filed, then the child must be named as a party to the action. In many of these cases, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interests.

Additional Resources

Establish Parentage for Your Child's Sake - Find a booklet explaining to parents the importance of establishing parentage. 

Paternity Establishment in Washington State - Visit the website of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services to find information on establishing paternity. Learn more about the benefits to the child of establishing parentage. Find information for parents on how to establish paternity the children and frequently asked questions (FAQ). In many of these cases, the parents have an opportunity to sign a paternity acknowledgment at the time the child is born which is witnesses by a hospital employee, midwife or other entity.

Watch a short video on YouTube published by WashingtonStateDSHS on February 16, 2012. The short video explains the benefits and legal requirements of signing the paternity acknowledgment.

This page was last updated on Monday, October 16, 2017.

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