If you have a child outside of marriage, you must file for legal paternity to preserve your rights as a father. Washington state offers several routes for men in this situation.
Learn more about establishing paternity in Washington and the benefits of doing so.
Acknowledgment of Paternity
Both parents must sign and submit this legal document to claim paternity. A notary or witness who witnesses these signatures must also sign. Many parents sign the AOP at the hospital after the child’s birth.
Once you submit the Acknowledgement of Paternity to the Washington Department of Health, it becomes legally binding after a 60-day waiting period. The form carries an $18 filing fee.
If either parent has doubts about the father’s identity, he or she should not sign this legal document. Instead, they should ask the state for a legal paternity test. In this case, the DOH will order DNA screening to determine biological fatherhood.
Father’s rights and responsibilities
By establishing legal paternity, you gain the right to file for custody or visitation with your child. You must also provide financial support, either by agreement with the child’s mother or as dictated by a Washington child support order. If you end up with primary physical custody of your child, you can ask the court for financial support from the child’s mother.
You can also ensure that your child can obtain certain benefits in your name by claiming legal paternity. Examples include veteran benefits and Social Security benefits.
If you have a conflict about paternity with the child’s mother, you must assert your legal rights to maintain your paternal relationship.