How can a person establish paternity?

DCS cannot set an order requiring a father to pay child support if paternity is not established. Paternity can be established by:

  • Marriage (the husband is presumed by law to be the father of any child born during the marriage),
  • Court order (the court can enter an order stating that a certain man is the father of the child) or
  • Acknowledgment (unmarried parents sign and file an affidavit stating that they are the parents of the child).

    If the parents were married when the child was born, Washington law presumes the husband to be the father. This means that DCS can establish a support order against the husband.

    If the parents were not married at the time the child was born, or if the mother was married to a man who is not the father of the child, then the parties may:

  • Sign and file an Acknowledgment of Paternity (which must be signed by the mother's husband if he is not the father), 
  • Ask the court to determine which man is the legal father of the child.

    DCS can help you establish paternity and enter a child support order for your child or children. Either parent can apply for child support services to establish paternity. If DCS has to go to court, they will refer your case to the county prosecuting attorney.

    If you get TANF or medical assistance, and you are afraid it would be dangerous for you to establish paternity, you must follow the rules for DSHS to approve good cause for not cooperating with DCS.

    If you do not explain that you are afraid, or DSHS does not grant good cause, DCS and the county prosecutor will make you cooperate in establishing paternity. If you do not respond to mail or phone calls from DSHS, you may lose your benefits.