If you are a Washington dad but were not married to your child’s mother at the time of his or her birth, it may shock you to learn that you have no parental rights to your child and (s)he may well have no father listed on his or her birth certificates. Unfortunately, if your child’s mother chooses to deny you access to him or her, this puts you in the position of having no say about whether or not you can be the active loving father you want to be.

As FindLaw explains, the only way you can get a second chance at fatherhood in Washington is to proactively establish paternity of your child.

Acknowledgment of paternity

The easiest way for you to establish your paternity is for you and the child’s mother to sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form and file it with the Department of Health. Naturally, this requires the cooperation of your child’s mother. Both of you will need to sign the form in front of a notary public.

Court action

If your child’s mom refuses to sign the AOP and/or denies that you fathered her child, you will have to file a petition to establish parentage in your local county court. The judge undoubtedly will order you to undergo DNA testing to scientifically prove your claim of fatherhood. Assuming the test comes back positive, the court will then declare you the legal father of your child.

Whether via an AOP or court action, once you establish your paternity you then have all legal rights to your child, including the right to seek custody or visitation. You can also have your child’s birth certificate reissued showing you as his or her father.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.