PATERNITY LAWYER IN TACOMA, WA
DO I NEED A PATERNITY LAWYER? PARENTAGE, PATERNITY, AND UNMARRIED PARENTS
If you have children with your boyfriend or girlfriend and that relationship is ending, you may need a paternity lawer to help prepare parenting plan or residential schedule, to clarify visitation for each parent and a child support order to provide a safe and financially stable environment for the kids. This process is similar to divorce, however in cases where the parents were never married it is called parentage.
Parentage actions address matters where unmarried parents need to establish parenting plans, sometimes limited to just a residential schedule in parentage matters, and child custody support orders for their children. Paternity (identifying the legal father of the child) is a component of parentage because Washington State requires unmarried parents to establish paternity before a support order or residential schedule can be entered by the court. If paternity is not established, the default in Washington State is to grant full custody to the mother.
HOW DO I ESTABLISH PATERNITY?
There are three ways to establish paternity in Washington State. The first is by presumption. When the parents of a newborn are married, parentage of the child is automatically presumed. Another way to establish paternity is by agreement, also known as acknowledgement. When the parents of a newborn are not married at the time of birth, but both agree as to the identity of the father, they can sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. If this is not done in the hospital, it can be notarized and filed with the state later. If the parents are unmarried at the time of birth and they do not agree on the identity of the biological father, a parentage action may be required to order a paternity investigation or DNA test. A paternity lawyer can help guide you through the process.
WHAT IF I AGREED TO PATERNITY BUT CHANGED MY MIND?
If you signed a Paternity Acknowledgement but are now questioning it, you may have the option to withdraw it. Typically, this must be done within 60 days of entry. The father can withdraw acknowledgement up to his 19th birthday if he was a minor when he signed the form.
In some cases, where duress, fraud or mistake may be present, a withdrawal can be entered after the father’s 19th birthday or the two-month deadline. However, establishing and proving a strong enough argument for withdrawal of acknowledgement after the deadline can be extremely difficult. An experienced paternity attorney can help you navigate and address this issue.
WHY DO I NEED TO ESTABLISH PATERNITY?
When a baby is born to unmarried parents, custody defaults to the mother unless an agreed upon identity for the father is provided. This means that a man who believes he is the father of a child but is not named on the birth certificate does not have the same parental rights as the mother.
A difference in parental rights might not be obvious during the relationship, but if unmarried parents decide to part ways it can be difficult for the father to have visitation with his children or perform basic functions like register them for school or make decisions on their behalf at the doctor’s office.
An experienced paternity lawyer can help you figure out what steps need to be taken to establish paternity, engage your rights and enter a residential child custody schedule that will allot you time with your child.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PARENTING PLAN AND RESIDENTIAL SCHEDULE?
A residential schedule addresses when a child will be with each parent throughout the year including holidays, school breaks, and birthdays. A parenting plan includes a residential schedule but also covers how the parents will manage their roles moving forward. It typically addresses whether the parents have joint decision making on big issues like religion and medical care and how disputes about parenting will be handled.
DO YOU NEED HELP FROM A PATERNITY LAWYER?
Call us today to learn more about how we can help you establish and maintain your legal rights as a parent, including child custody and child support.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided above is intended to be a general discussion of common parentage issues. It is not intended to be taken as specific legal advice that applies to your individual fact situation. Always seek legal counsel for advice on your unique case needs.