When it comes to spending time with your child and making decisions about their wellbeing, it’s understandable that you might feel a mix of strong emotions. As a father, you may believe that the mother has the advantage in a custody situation. But this isn’t necessarily correct.
In Washington State, fathers have the same parental rights as mothers until the court says otherwise. But when a child is born to unmarried parents, a father does have to take some extra steps to pursue his parental rights.
If you are the biological father of a child that is unmarried to the mother, you must establish paternity to gain rights as a father. Fathers can prove paternity in several ways:
- Birth Certificate – If your name is on the birth certificate, you can present this as proof of paternity.
- DNA Test – If your name is not on the birth certificate, you can generally establish paternity through a DNA test.
Even if you are not the biological father, you may be able to establish your rights as a de-facto parent if you can prove certain facts required by law. These include:
- The child lived with you for a significant period;
- You engaged in consistent caretaking of the child;\
- You undertook permanent and full responsibilities as a parent without expectation of financial compensation; and
- A continuing relationship is in the best interests of the child.
Child Custody in Washington State
The Washington State family law courts don’t typically use the term “custody.” Instead, they refer to the Parenting Plan and residential schedule. This establishes where a child will reside and a reasonable visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent, and it also resolves issues such as holiday schedules.
When the family law court needs to decide what is in the best interests of the child in terms of decision-making authority and where your child will reside, it takes a variety of factors into consideration. Among them are:
- The stability of the parent
- The safety of the child
- The nature of the parent’s relationship with the child
It’s important to understand that Washington State custody cases mandate equal treatment between the father and mother, meaning the courts don’t favor either parent. Instead, they favor the child and prefer that parents create a mutually agreeable parenting plan that divides their roles and responsibilities equally. To achieve this goal, you may require the assistance of a qualified family law attorney.
Speak With An Experienced Washington Family Law Attorney
If you are the father of a child in Washington State, you have certain parental rights. As experienced family law attorneys, we can help you exercise those rights and will fiercely advocate for your interests and the best interests of your child.
Contact Steller Legal Group today. We serve clients throughout Pierce, King, and Thurston Counties and are available for a free consultation.