What are Parentage or Paternity Actions?

Parentage, or Paternity, actions deal with the resolution of conflict regarding  parental rights and responsibilities concerning one or more children.

Presumption of Paternity or Parentage

Under Washington State law, a man may be considered the “presumed” father of a child if he was living with or married to the mother when she became pregnant, during her pregnancy, or when the child was born. The same conditions may apply to a woman in an intimate relationship with or married to the birth mother. However, such conditions do not guarantee the other “parent’s” name is included on the child’s birth certificate. Procedures must be followed, either at the time of the birth, or at some point thereafter. If the birth mother and the other “parent” are not in agreement, it can be difficult to establish the other adult as the child’s parent. The reverse is true as well. A birth mother may have someone’s name added to the birth certificate as the other parent, without that person actually being the biological parent.

A parent’s rights and responsibilities often rely on the birth mother’s agreement. However, there is a legal process to establish a person’s rights and responsibilities (or lack thereof) regardless of the birth mother’s desires.

Why file a Parentage or Paternity Actions

This is when a Parentage action, also known as a Paternity action, comes into play. Any person who reasonably believes they are the biological parent of a child but is not on the child’s birth certificate OR believes they are not the biological parent and their name is on the birth certificate has the right to Petition the Court to start a legal case to determine whether they are, or not, in fact, the biological parent.

A Parentage Action starts with an assertion that:

  1. Someone not of the birth certificate is actually the child’s parent; or
  2. Someone named on the birth certificate is not actually the child’s parent.

Determining Biological Paternity

The court can order a DNA test, which will show whether said person is, or is not, the biological parent, with an infinitesimal margin of error.

Once the court has been provided with scientific evidence of the biological relationship, the court will either enter an order that the person is, or is not, the biological parent. With that order, either parent may then ask the court to establish orders concerning the parenting and support of the child between the parents.

If you are involved in a matter related to Parentage or Paternity conflict and would like to discuss your situation with an experienced Family Law attorney, please contact our office at 360.471.3300.