FAQ for Parents

What are the advantages to signing an Acknowledgment of Parentage?

What if the birth mother was married to another person or in a registered domestic partnership?

Where can I sign a parentage Acknowledgment?

How may I obtain a copy of my Acknowledgment of Parentage after it has been filed at the Washington State Department of Health (DOH)?

What are my legal rights when I sign an Acknowledgment of Parentage?

Can I sign the Acknowledgment even if I am under age 18?

Can I change my mind if I sign an Acknowledgment of Parentage?

What if I change my mind more than 60 days after I sign the Acknowledgment of Parentage?

What if I am not sure I want to sign an Acknowledgment of Parentage?

Do I need to have a genetic test?

When should parentage be established in court?

How do I open a parentage case in court?

How is parentage established in court?

Are there costs to establish parentage in court?

How do I establish parenting rights such as custody and visitation?

How may I legally establish parentage?

Who can help me establish parentage or answer further questions?


What are the advantages to signing an Acknowledgment of Parentage?

The Acknowledgment of Parentage is a simple, quick, and inexpensive way to legally establish parentage. It should be used only when both the birth mother and the second parent are sure that the second parent is the only other possible parent of the child.


What if the birth mother was married to another person or in a registered domestic partnership?

If the birth mother was married to another person during the pregnancy or in a registered domestic partnership, the person who claims to be the second parent may sign an Acknowledgment of Parentage. However, the birth mother's spouse or registered domestic partner must also agree. The presumed parent (birth mother's spouse or registered domestic partner) must sign a Denial of Parentage or the Acknowledgment of Parentage will not be valid. Both the acknowledgment and the denial must be filed with the Department of Health (DOH).


Where can I sign a parentage Acknowledgment?

Most parents sign the acknowledgment form at a birthing hospital, a birthing clinic, or at home under the care of a midwife shortly after the child is born. A hospital, midwife, or birthing clinic staff person will help you complete the form if necessary, answer questions, and submit the paperwork to the Department of Health (DOH). Most hospitals, midwives, and birthing clinics can also notarize or witness the form for you. If you sign within 10 days of your child's birth, you will not need to pay a fee to file the acknowledgment form. If you do not sign at the hospital, you may obtain an Acknowledgment of Parentage form at your local county health department or any Division of Child Support (DCS) office. You may also call DCS at 1-800-442-KIDS (5437). Ask the receptionist to send you an acknowledgment form. DCS will mail you the form and an informational booklet without charge. Both parents will need to sign and have their signatures witnessed or notarized. You may send the form directly to DOH along with the filing fee. If you need help completing the form, any DCS office can assist you.


How may I obtain a copy of my Acknowledgment of Parentage after it has been filed at the Washington State Department of Health (DOH)?

The Acknowledgment of Parentage is filed at DOH and becomes the official record. If you file an action in court to challenge the acknowledgment, you will need a certified copy from DOH. To obtain the certified copy you will need to provide proof of your identity and pay a fee.  You can call DOH at 360-236-4300 and verify if an Acknowledgment of Parentage is on file prior to making a request.


What are my legal rights when I sign an Acknowledgment of Parentage?

Federal law requires you to receive both written and oral information about your rights and responsibilities when you sign an Acknowledgment of Parentage. A statement of your rights and responsibility is on the back of the Acknowledgment  of Parentage form. It is very important that you read that statement. You can hear the oral information by viewing a short video which is available at the hospital, birth clinic, your local health department and any DCS office, or you may call the toll free number 1-800-356-0463. Someone may also read the statement to you. Do not sign the form until you have received and understood both the written and oral information.


Can I sign the Acknowledgment even if I am under age 18?

In most cases a person under 18 years of age is considered a minor. An Acknowledgment of Parentage signed by a minor is valid. Minors who sign the acknowledgment form will be held to the same standard as adults.


Can I change my mind if I sign an Acknowledgment of Parentage?

Either parent who signs an Acknowledgment of Parentage or a Denial of Parentage may change his or her mind within a limited period of time. The legal term is called a rescission. To rescind a signature, you must complete a Rescission of Parentage form and file it with the Department of Health within no more than 60 days after the Acknowledgment of Parentage is filed at DOH or before the first court hearing , whichever happens first. Once the Rescission of Parentage form is filed, DOH will remove the second parent's name from the birth certificate.


What if I change my mind more than 60 days after I sign the Acknowledgment of Parentage?

After the rescission period, a challenge to the acknowledgment or denial may be filed in court for limited reasons up to 4 years after the acknowledgment or denial is filed with DOH. You will need to prove in Superior Court that you signed the form as a result of fraud, duress, or factual mistake.


What if I am not sure I want to sign an Acknowledgment of Parentage?

You should sign the Acknowledgment of Parentage only if you are sure that you are the parent of the child. If you have further questions, you may call DCS at 1-800-442-KIDS (5437). You may want to consult an attorney. If you decide not to sign the acknowledgment, you may ask the court to establish parentage.


Do I need to have a genetic test?

The alleged genetic father does not need to have a genetic test in order to sign an Acknowledgment of Parentage form, but he may choose to do so. A genetic test compares many different factors in the DNA of the father, mother and child. A genetic laboratory will issue a report which explains whether the man is the likely biological father. If parentage is established through the court, the court will likely require a genetic test if there is more than one possible father.


When should parentage be established in court?

Usually, it is best to establish parentage through the courts if there is any question about the identity of the other parent. For example, if the birth mother believes there is more than one possible father. There may be other reasons also. If either parent is unsure about signing the acknowledgment or the birth mother's spouse or registered domestic partner is unwilling to sign a denial, then establishing parentage in court may be the best option.


How do I open a parentage case in court?

Often the state can help establish parentage for your child if you apply for services with DCS. If DCS accepts your case, DCS will usually refer your case to a county prosecuting attorney. The county prosecutor acts on behalf of your child and cannot represent you in court or give you legal advice. The prosecutor can answer general questions about your parentage case.


How is parentage established in court?

If the state is trying to establish parentage, a county prosecutor will usually serve legal papers upon the possible father or fathers. Often, the prosecutor or the court will require the mother, possible father(s), and the child to submit to genetic tests. The court will enter an order establishing parentage.


Are there costs to establish parentage in court?

If the prosecutor is establishing parentage in court on a DCS case, you will not be charged a filing fee. However there may be other costs associated with establishing parentage in court. If a man is determined to be the father he may be ordered to pay the costs of genetic tests or other court costs.


How do I establish parenting rights such as custody and visitation?

Custody and visitation issues are usually addressed in a legal document called a Parenting Plan. Regardless of whether parentage was established through marriage, a registered domestic partnership, acknowledgment, or the courts, only the courts may address legal custody and visitation issues. Therefore, a parentage action must be filed with a court. Often parents can agree on parenting plans by consulting with a mediator or court facilitator. Parents will still need to file the plan with the court. Contact your county court facilitator or other legal resources for further information.


How may I legally establish parentage?

There are several ways to establish legal parentage.

(1) Marriage or a registered domestic partnership.   If a child is born during a marriage or registered domestic partnership, the child is presumed to be the child of that marriage or domestic partnership. This creates what is called a "presumption of parentage." Unless a parent or some other interested party later challenges that presumption, the spouse or domestic partner will be considered the legal parent of the child.

(2) Acknowledgment of Parentage. The Acknowledgment  of Parentage is a legal form. The person who signs the form will be considered the legal parent after the form is signed, witnessed or notarized, and filed at the Washington State Department of Health, Center for Health Statistics (DOH/CHS).

(3) Court Order. The court may determine if a person is the legal parent of a child. The court may require a genetic test of the mother, child, and a man alleged to be the biological father.


Who can help me establish parentage or answer further questions?

Call 1-800-442-KIDS (5437) to obtain the phone number of a DCS office near where you live. You may consult an attorney. You may call toll free at 1-800-945-WSBA to find out if there is a lawyer referral service in your county. Low income people may qualify for reduced cost legal assistance. To find more about reduced cost legal assistance, call the King County Bar Association at 206-623-2551 if you live within King County. If you live outside of King County, call the CLEAR LINE AT 1-888-201-1014.