Establishing paternity may be done voluntarily or without a father's cooperation, and there are a number of reasons for a Washington parent to do so. One reason is that all children should have the right to know their father. It is the first step in getting a child support order, and it also allows a child to inherit from the father and get any benefits that are due to the child via the father. Establishing paternity may allow the father to seek custody or visitation rights as well.
The process is fairly straightforward for a father who is willing and present. He can acknowledge paternity at the time of the child's birth. The other option is to sign an affidavit of paternity at any time while the child is still a minor.
However, in some cases the father may be uncooperative or may not even be contactable. The local office of child support enforcement may assist the mother. Government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration or the IRS, might help locate the father. He may then acknowledge paternity voluntarily, or he will be asked to take a genetic test. If he refuses the test, he might be named the father by default. Otherwise, the results of the test will be reported to him.
There are also cases in which a father might seek to establish paternity because he wants visitation or custodial rights to the child. Whether the situation is one like this or one in which parents who were living together are splitting up, it is important to put the best interests of the child first. This could mean a situation in which parents share custody. If one parent lives far away from the other, the child might be able to visit during holidays.