Establishing Paternity Rights and Obligations with a Seattle Paternity Attorney

You might be a mother who needs to have the father legally determined to be the father, you might be a father who wants to establish your parenting rights, or you might be a possible father who wants to determine whether or not you are the father of a child. In any of these situations, or others as well, you should talk to a Seattle paternity attorney for more information.

Washington Paternity Law

Most paternity matters are covered by the Uniform Parentage Act, which was rewritten for 2019 to better address issues around assisted reproduction and surrogacy agreements.

Different Parent Statuses in Washington

The first thing you need to do in a paternity situation is look at the status of the parties. It may well be that no action is needed, at least in terms of determining paternity. These statuses include:

  • Acknowledged Parent
  • Presumed Parent
  • Alleged Parent
  • Adjudicated Parent

A Seattle paternity attorney can help clarify your current status.

Of course since a mother who gives birth to the child is automatically established as a parent, most of these determination issues have to do with the father of the child (or a de facto parent which we will discuss farther down).

Meet with a Seattle Paternity Attorney To See if Court Action is Needed to Determine Paternity

If a person is a Presumed Father or an Acknowledged Father, then no further action should be needed to determine that they are a parent, unless there is a claim being made that someone else should be named as the child’s father. However, for a couple who is not living together, court action is still needed to establish custody and child support obligations. Do not assume that no court action is needed in your case until you have talked with one of our Seattle paternity attorneys.

Acknowledged Paternity

An Acknowledged Father is established where a certificate of acknowledgement of paternity has been filed with the state. This is typically done at the time of the birth of the child, and is signed by both parents. The certificate states the parents agreement that they are the parents and that there is no other presumed parent. The acknowledgement legally establishes that the couple are the parents of the child. No other action is needed, except that if the couple is separated, or later separates, they will need to work out a parenting schedule and child support, just like a divorcing couple.

If you have signed an acknowledgement of paternity but feel you did so by mistake, there is a very limited period of time to rescind that acknowledgement, so make sure you talk to a Seattle paternity attorney right away!

Presumed Paternity

Where an acknowledgement of paternity has not been done, a person may still be a Presumed Father (see RCW 26.26A.115). For instance, you are a Presumed Father if the child was born while you were married to (or in a state registered domestic partnership with) the mother, or within 300 days after such marriage or partnership ended. You can also be the Presumed Father if you married or entered into a domestic partnership after the birth of the child and:

  • Filed an assertion with the state that you are the father of the child, or
  • Are voluntarily named on the birth certificate, or
  • Lived with the child during the first 4 years of her or his life and openly treated the child as yours.

If you are a Presumed Father or a birth mother but believe another person may be the actual father of the child, make sure you talk to a Seattle paternity attorney as soon as possible, as time limits to contest paternity may apply.

Alleged and Adjudicated Paternity

In other situations it may be necessary to have paternity legally determined by the court, which your Seattle paternity attorney can help you with. An Alleged Father is someone  who is not an Acknowledged Father or a Presumed Father but is believed to possibly be the actual father. You might believe that you are the actual father and want to be named as the child’s actual father, or you might be a mother who wants parentage clarified. If there is an Alleged Father then there needs to be a court determination as to who should be the Adjudicated Father (adjudicated just means that a court had made a ruling).

Disestablishing Paternity

On the other hand, if you are a Presumed Father but wish to have it determined that you are in fact NOT the father of the child, you should talk to a Seattle paternity attorney right away. You need to make sure, other than in very limited circumstances, that you file the court action within 4 years of the birth of the child. After the four years has passed without any action on your part, you may be held to be the legal father of the child even if you are not the biological father.

If the court determines a person to be the Adjudicated Father of a child, note that the court can also order up to 5 years of retroactive child support, or more in unusual circumstances. Make sure you discuss possible back child support with a Seattle paternity attorney.

De Facto Parentage

One other type of Adjudicated Parent is the De Facto Parent. A De Facto Parent is a person who is not a biological parent but who has assumed a parenting role for the child such that they should be treated as a parent. RCW 26.26A.440 (4) set out the factors for the court to weigh when deciding whether to name a person as a De Facto Parent:

  • The individual resided with the child as a regular member of the child’s household for a significant period;
  • The individual engaged in consistent caretaking of the child;
  • The individual undertook full and permanent responsibilities of a parent of the child without expectation of financial compensation;
  • The individual held out the child as the individual’s child;
  • The individual established a bonded and dependent relationship with the child which is parental in nature;
  • Another parent of the child fostered or supported the bonded and dependent relationship required under (e) of this subsection; and
  • Continuing the relationship between the individual and the child is in the best interest of the child.

If you think you might qualify as a de facto parent, be sure to talk to a Seattle paternity attorney. De facto parentage is often very useful in gay or lesbian marriages to determine that a partner should named as a legal parent of the child even when they could not have been a biological parent. This can be very important if the couple breaks up and the partner wants to have continuing parenting rights to reflect the established relationship with the child.

It is worth noting that in appropriate circumstances the court can find more than two people to be legal parents of a child. For instance, a child could have one biological father, one biological mother, and a second de facto mother.

Starting a Paternity Determination in Washington 

If you want to ask the court the court to determine the parentage of a child, you start by filing a Petition To Decide Parentage (your Seattle paternity attorney will help you with this). In the petition, or in a response to the petition, you should name any other potential parents you are aware of so that all can be notified of the proceeding and the court can make a determination between all candidates. When appropriate, DNA tests may be required by the court.

Call Our Firm Today To Discuss Paternity Issues with a Top Seattle Paternity Attorney

If you are seeking to establish or disestablish paternity of a child who, discuss your paternity issues with a Seattle paternity attorney. To schedule an appointment, we can be reached through the form on our website, or you can call us at 206-784-3049.