Paternity cases are governed, effective 1/1/2019, by RCW 26.26A and B. The statute is quite broad and covers a great many topics, including:
- establishing or disestablishing the father/child relationship
- surrogate parenting; genetic testing
- declaring men on a child’s birth certificate to be the legal father by “acknowledgment”
- child support
- custody, parenting plans, and visitation
- assisted reproduction
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 40.5% of all children were born to unwed mothers in the U.S. in 2020. By age 30, 2/3rds of all women today will have had a child out of wedlock. For young women who don’t graduate from high school, that figure jumps to 83%, according to a 3/15/13 report by CBS News. For children born to unmarried parents, the divorce statute typically won’t apply, the paternity statute will… and so will the divorce statute, by reference, especially to issues around custody and care of children.
Generally, a man who believes himself to be the father of a child, but is not listed on the birth certificate, is classified as an “alleged father”. Such men have no right to custody or visitation with their child unless and until a court order is entered which establishes there is a legally recognized “parent/child relationship”. RCW 26.26A.100. If a child is born to a woman married to a man, then that man is the “presumptive father” unless and until clear evidence, usually genetic testing, shows otherwise. RCW 26.26A.115
Although the State of Washington will help to establish paternity as part of its duty to provide “support enforcement services”, there are many occasions where a private attorney is needed, either to supplement State efforts focused on child support or to enable a parent to navigate the increasingly complex rules of this statute. Give us a call at 205-327-9335 if you have questions or need help.