Establishing Paternity in Washington – Understand Your Options

While it may seem obvious, paternity establishes very important rights such as the right of a father to custody and visitation of his child. It also establishes important obligations, such as providing support, both financial and emotional. 

Unfortunately, paternity is rarely an issue until there is an issue between the parents. As you might imagine, this can create conflict and leave the parties wondering what to do. If you are in a situation where paternity needs to be established, a Seattle paternity attorney can help you understand your options. 

Father with baby stroller

Acknowledged Paternity

If the biological parents agree as to who is the father, the father can file a “certificate of acknowledgment of paternity” memorializing their agreement. From a legal standpoint, this is all you need to do in order to establish paternity. Unfortunately, acknowledged paternity may not be an option in contentious divorces or separations. That said, a Seattle paternity attorney can possibly help persuade an unwilling partner to acknowledge their fatherhood. 

Presumed Paternity

Similar to acknowledged paternity, presumed paternity is another means of voluntarily establishing paternity. However, presumed paternity may not require any action on the part of either parent. As the name suggests, one parent can be presumed to be the father in the following situations: 

  • The child was born while the parents were married or within 300 days after the marriage ended
  • The parents married after the child was born but the father was voluntarily named on the birth certificate 
  • The parents were unmarried but the father lived with the child during the first four years of their life and openly treated the child as his 
  • The parents were unmarried but the father filed legal documents claiming the child as his own

If you believe that someone else may be the father, you may need to pursue legal action in order to disestablish paternity. We recommend that you speak with a Seattle paternity attorney if you find yourself facing this situation. 

Involuntary or Adjudicated Paternity

In some cases, one of the parents may challenge the paternity of the child. Because it will decide important rights and obligations for the child, it must be resolved before the partners will be allowed to divorce. In order to resolve this issue, the court must intercede. 

The process begins with the challenging party filing a “Petition to Establish Parentage” with the court. If paternity is uncertain, the court may order a DNA test to establish paternity. With so much riding on the outcome of the court proceeding, we recommend against spouses representing themselves in these matters. 

Talk to a Seattle Paternity Attorney at Seattle Divorce Services 

If paternity is at issue in your divorce, you need someone who can help you navigate the potential options and outcomes. At Seattle Divorce Services, we help our clients make informed decisions so that they can build a better future for themselves and their children. To learn more about how we can help, call us today at 206-784-3049 or complete our online contact form.