Determining the legal father of a child is one of the best things that you can do as a parent for a family. Everyone in the family unit can benefit from establishing a child’s paternity, and Washington state provides multiple methods for doing so. If you would like to speak with an experienced family law attorney about establishing paternity in Washington, call or contact the Hodgson Law Office in Spokane today to schedule a consultation.
When both parents agree on the paternity of a child, a child’s legal father can be identified through the use of a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. This document must be signed by both parents and is usually done at the hospital when the child is born. When signed at the hospital, both parents’ names are placed on the child’s birth certificate. It can also be signed at a later date, and the birth certificate can be reissued with both parents’ names included.
It is important to note that a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity is not required when the couple is married or in a domestic partnership. Paternity in these cases is presumed, and additional documentation is not necessary.
If one parent disputes the paternity of the child, the parent wishing to establish parentage can file a petition in court. This is also sometimes referred to as involuntary establishment of paternity. Once the petition is filed, a court date is set, and at that hearing if the presumed father does not appear the judge can file a default judgment in the mother’s favor establishing the man as the legal father of the child. If the presumed father appears and one parent disputes parentage, the court can order genetic testing to determine the child’s biological father.
A genetic test involves either taking a cheek swab or blood samples from the child and father to test for matches in their DNA. This test can establish with 99.9% certainty whether or not the man is the child’s biological father. If the DNA confirms parentage, the mother and father will then negotiate a parenting plan that includes issues of child custody, visitation, and child support.
There are many benefits to establishing paternity for a child in Washington. The father and child are given an opportunity to develop a parent-child relationship that would otherwise not be possible, and the child has potential access to health insurance, life insurance, Social Security, and other benefits. The mother also benefits through assistance with child support, and the child is legally granted inheritance rights from both legal parents.
Furthermore, establishing paternity can be very important for an unmarried parent seeking child support. However, establishing paternity is even more important for an unmarried father wanting to ensure consistent visitation. Without establishing himself as the father this person would have no legal rights. However, when a father does establish paternity, then Washington law will recognize this person as having a constitutional right to participate in all parenting functions. Also, by establishing paternity early in a child’s life a non-custodial parent will be able to ensure that the child is financially supported, and this person will be able to avoid a substantial back child support obligation.
Do you or a loved one have questions about establishing paternity for a child in the Spokane area? If so, call the office or contact us today at the Hodgson Law Office to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable family law attorneys and learn more about your legal options.