What did this look like before January 1, 2019?
The most common official way to establish parentage was the parents signing and filing a paternity affidavit or paternity or parentage acknowledgment withthe state Department of Vital Statistics.
Hospital staff would give an unmarried mother this form while in the hospital after the child’s birth.
What is the law effective January 1, 2019?
The woman who gave birth to the child and the person wanting to establish parentage must do these:
- Sign and have witnessed a form meeting the requirements of RCW 26.26A.205: Often an Acknowledgment of Parentage (or Parentage Acknowledgment)
- File this form with Vital Statistics. In many cases, this can be a birth certificate.
Starting January 1, 2019, the woman who gave birth and biological father or presumed parent can sign and have notarized or witnessed this agreement.
The Acknowledgment must state that the child:
- Has no other presumed parent besides the person seeking to establish parentage or has a presumed parent as listed in the Acknowledgment
- Has no other acknowledged or adjudicated parent
The Acknowledgment must also state that:
- The people signing it understand it is the legal equivalent of a court order establishing parentage
- It can be challenged in only a few situations and only in the first four years after you sign it
You can read the law about this at RCW 26.26A.205.
Is signing the acknowledgment as good as getting a court order?
Signing and filing it with the Washington State Department of Health on or after July 1, 1997 gives it the same legal effect as a court order establishing parentage (RCW 26.26A.220).
Does an acknowledgment count if one of the parents signing is under 18?
Yes (RCW 26.26A.215(4)).
Is an acknowledgment from another state as good as a Washington acknowledgment?
Washington State recognizes an acknowledgment filed in another state if that state does (RCW 26.26A.250).
Does signing and filing an acknowledgment give me legal custody?
An acknowledgment cannot grant custody, visitation, or child support. It does give you the right to file a court case asking for custody or visitation, among other legal rights.
Does signing and filing an acknowledgment mean the named parent is automatically responsible to pay child support for our child?
Yes, but you must still go through the state Division of Child Support or court to get an order establishing support.