Establishing parentage creates a legal relationship between a parent and child. Establishing "paternity" creates a legal relationship between a father and child. The person who gives birth to the child already has a legal relationship with the child. Establishing parentage or paternity may give a parent potential rights (visitation) and responsibilities (child support).
A parent's name is put on the birth certificate if:
- They give birth to the child.
- They and the parent who gives birth to the child are married to each other at the time the child is born. They are a presumed parent.
- Both parents sign an acknowledgment of parentage and it is filed with the Department of Health. If the parent who gives birth to the child was married to someone else when the child was born, that person must also sign.
- A court order says they are a legal parent.
Parentage and child support cases
When you apply for parentage and child support services, you are applying to DCS. A parent, person who thinks they may be a parent, or person who has the child in their physical custody may ask DCS for services. In King County, DCS will then ask the Prosecuting Attorney’s office to work on your case. We are the attorney for DCS. We are not the attorney for you or anyone else involved in your case.
If your case is referred to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office Family Support team, we will contact you by regular mail to get the information we need to file a case in Superior Court. We do not charge any fees for this service. Court costs, service costs, and DNA testing fees are all paid by Washington state.
Most court cases for parentage include:
- Who are the legal parents (usually done by DNA testing)
- Who should pay and the amount of child support going forward
- Who should pay and what is the amount of back child support
- Healthcare coverage for the child
- Custody of the child
You may also have the opportunity to address other issues in the case, such as the child’s legal name, a parenting plan (visitation schedule), and claiming the child for tax purposes.
Legal parents may also be listed using an acknowledgment of parentage form. Contact DCS or the Department of Health for more information on this form and the consequences of signing it.
Learn more about the acknowledgement of parentage with videos from Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.