According to U.S. News & World Report, 2018 saw a record low marriage rate of 6.5, the lowest since the earliest year for which government marriage data exists. The decline in the number of couples joining in marriage is a growing trend in the U.S.
Pew Research reported that one in every four American parents in a household with a child remained unmarried in 2018. If you are an unmarried father in Washington state who recently separated from your significant other or learned about the existence of a previously unknown child and want to obtain custody, there are facts you need to know.
You need to establish paternity
Doing this grants you the same rights as a married father. If your name is on your child’s birth certificate, then you do not need to since the law recognizes your paternity. If this does not apply, you may ask the courts to order a DNA test through a parentage petition. The other option is to have the mother sign an affidavit confirming that you are the actual father. Note that in Washington state custody initially defaults to the mother if you did not marry and there is no determination of paternity.
You need a parenting plan
After the settling of the issue of paternity, the next step is to create an agreement called a parenting plan that specifies when your kid spends time with you versus with the mother (including holidays). This does not necessarily require the intervention of a court to make, though a judge has to sign off on your plan.
Unmarried fathers have rights and options as long as there is legal acknowledgment of paternity. In this situation, the courts do not show favoritism towards one gender or the other.