You barely remember signing the hospital papers after your first child was born. You were there throughout the pregnancy, you put a roof over your wife’s head, and then your child’s. It’s not that proving paternity wasn’t important, you just never thought your fatherhood would be in question.

But now that you and your wife are divorcing, all of the things you did for the good of your family are suddenly null and void if you can’t prove that the child is legally your relative.

Why it Is Important to Establish Parentage of Your Child as Soon as Possible

In cases where parents are unmarried, fathers may sign an affidavit of paternity at the child’s birth swearing that they are the legal parent. However, if your paternity is challenged, you may submit to a paternity test at any time after the birth of the child. Washington State law provides a number of protections for you and your child once paternity has been proven, including:

  • Legal proof of relationship. A paternity test will establish whether or not you are a child’s legitimate parent. In cases of child support, fathers may want proof that their child is a blood relative before submitting to child support demands.
  • Denial of fatherhood. Women may demand a paternity test to prove that children are not legally related to their current (or former) partner. This will suspend that partner’s rights after divorce.
  • Fighting for custody. Positive paternity gives you the right to make important decisions about your children, including who they will live with and how much time they will spend with the other parent. Once your paternity is established, the other parent cannot legally deny you contact without proving to a court why you should not have access to your children.
  • Inheritance. As your legal child, he or she will have a right to inherit your property after your death.
  • Naming rights. If the child is your blood relative, you have a right in making decisions about the child’s last name.
  • Traveling with children. You may need to provide proof of blood relation if you want to travel outside the U.S. with your child.

If you are unsure about submitting to a paternity test for your upcoming custody case, you should consult with a family law attorney before signing any paperwork. Click the contact link on this page to learn more about protecting your parental rights, or read through our FREE book, The Thinking Man’s Guide to Divorce in Washington.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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