Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the Washington courts to have to settle disputes regarding parentage before moving onto other issues, such as child custody and support. Some individuals contest parentage because they truly believe there is a valid reason to do so, while others contest parentage simply as a way of getting back at the other parent. Regardless of one’s reasoning for challenging paternity or maternity, one should note that the state of Washington does not make the process easy, as it operates under a few different and hard to dispute presumptions.

According to the Washington Courts Family Law Handbook, there is often little doubt about who a child’s parents are. In fact, because the state believes this to be true, it operates under the presumption of parentage in three instances.

The first is if the child was born to a woman who, at the time of the child’s birth, was party to a marriage or domestic partnership. In this case, the courts would presume that the woman and the partner are the rightful parents.

The second is if the child is born no later than 300 days after a marriage or domestic partnership ends. The ending can come through separation, divorce, invalidity, annulment or death.

The third and final instance in which the courts would operate under a presumption of parentage is if the birth mother and the other party enter into a marital contract or domestic partnership after the birth of the child. However, for the presumption to hold true in this instance, the non-birth mother would need to agree to be a parent and sign his or her name on the birth certificate; file a record of parentage with the state registrar of vital statistics; or live with the child in the same household for the first four years of the child’s life and openly hold the child as his or her own.

The state allows individuals to challenge these presumptions only in very select circumstances. If a person wishes to challenge parentage, he or she must abide by strict legal procedures and file within a strict timeframe.

This article is for educational purposes only. You should not use it as legal advice.