How to Establish Paternity and Parentage in Washington State

Establishing paternity and parentage in Washington State

Establishing paternity and parentage is important for many families and parents. Regardless of why you want to establish paternity and parentage, the process has the potential to be confusing, especially if you are unfamiliar with the terms and rules for establishment.

There are three ways to establish paternity and parentage in the state of Washington: presumption, acknowledgment, and court orders. In the article below, we go over what each of these processes entails, what establishment actually means for parents and their children, and why it is so important for you to establish paternity and parentage.

What are paternity and parentage?

In the state of Washington, when you establish paternity, you establish who the biological father of the child is. Once biological fatherhood is established, legal fatherhood can be established, allowing the father to have a say in significant decisions about their child, as well as to be held responsible for the child’s welfare under certain laws and rules regarding parenthood.

Parentage is a gender-neutral term referring to biological and legal parents, but it establishes the same rights. Once paternity and parentage are established, parents are then able to have a legally defined role in their children’s lives.

Why is it important to establish paternity and parentage?

When the parents are married or are in a domestic partnership, paternity and parentage are immediately established, and the parents are the child’s legal parents. However, if parents are unmarried, the father must establish paternity in order for him to be considered a legal parent. If you and the child’s other parent are not married, establishing paternity and parentage can be helpful for your child and can be important for numerous reasons.

Establishing paternity or parentage allows the child to receive financial support from and be a beneficiary of both parents. If you intend to pass down property to your child, for instance, establishing paternity or parentage makes this process significantly easier. If you do not have an estate plan for whatever reason, establishing paternity or parentage still gives your children inheritance rights, meaning that they would still receive some of your assets on the basis of them being your child.

Establishing paternity and parentage also gives both parents the right to make important medical or life decisions for their child, from what to do in the event of an emergency to where they go to school. For both parents to be legally involved in these decisions, you need to establish paternity and parentage.

Additionally, establishing paternity and parentage also gives your child access to significant information they may not otherwise receive. Aside from knowing who their biological parents are, they also will know medical and family histories, which can benefit them in the present and for years to come.

Ultimately, certain benefits are dependent upon paternity and parentage, and others are made easier, but it is a good idea to pursue these rights even if you are not sure you “need” to at the moment. Establishing paternity and parentage makes it easier for both parents to be involved in their children’s lives.

How do I establish paternity and parentage in Washington state?

There are three ways you can establish paternity and parentage in the state of Washington: presumption, acknowledgment, or court order.

1. Presumption

Under the Washington Uniform Parentage Act, parentage can be presumed under several circumstances. Other circumstances notwithstanding, if the person who gives birth to the child is married to or in a domestic partnership with an individual, and their child is born during the marriage or domestic partnership, both individuals are presumed to be parents. Additionally, if the child was born no more than 300 days after the marriage or domestic partnership is terminated, both individuals are presumed to be the parents.

2. Acknowledgment

Acknowledgment of paternity and parentage is another option for establishing paternity and parentage. This option may be helpful in situations where the mother is married to someone who is not the biological father. Because they are not married or in a domestic partnership, but both parents acknowledge that the father is the other biological parent, they can fill out an Acknowledgement of Paternity form to establish paternity for the father.

There may be a scenario when you want to rescind paternity, however. In these situations, you have 60 days after the Acknowledgement is completed to initiate the process of rescinding paternity. This is different for minors who sign an Acknowledgement; such signees have until they turn 19 to rescind paternity.

3. Court Order

Finally, a court order may be used to establish paternity or parentage. This option is usually for the involuntary establishment of paternity or parentage.

In a scenario where another parent is uncooperative, one parent may file to establish paternity via a parentage action. The court then becomes involved and may issue an order to establish paternity or parentage.

Can the state of Washington force me to take a paternity test?

The short answer is no, but perhaps, if matters escalate. If you do not want to take a paternity test, the state of Washington cannot require you to take one. However, there is the risk that a lawsuit to establish paternity may ensue, in which case you could potentially be legally required to take one.

Can a Washington state family lawyer help me with a paternity and parentage action?

If you are running into issues with paternity or parentage actions or you are just looking for guidance, an experienced family lawyer can be an invaluable resource in the process. Establishing paternity or parentage can be very complex in some circumstances, and it can often be a stressful experience. The assistance of a Seattle family law attorney can offer a neutral and informed perspective to help you through the process.

Additionally, even after paternity or parentage is established, a Seattle family law attorney can help you make future plans for your family by establishing parenting agreements or assisting you in creating a comprehensive estate plan. At Elise Buie Family Law, our team of family law attorneys has vast experience handling issues related to the establishment of paternity and parentage. Call our Seattle office today.


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