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It depends. Under RCW 26.26B.040, the court has the discretion to order back child support from the time the child was born to the issuance of the final orders. This period is limited to 5 years. However, there are many factors that go into awarding back child support. If the State of Washington has paid certain public assistance to the birth mother, it may be entitled to a portion or all of the back support for periods when the public support was paid. In those circumstances, the State of Washington through the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office may request the back-child support, which will be due to the State if awarded. If there is no public assistance, the custodial parent may request back support as a part of the paternity action.
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A person cannot be obligated to pay child support until they are legally declared to be a parent and they are listed on the child’s birth certificate. A father’s name is put on the birth certificate if:
If a father is already listed on the child’s birth certificate, the Division of Child Support (DCS) can set support administratively. If no father is named on the child’s birth certificate, then DCS may refer the case to the Family Support Division to establish paternity and set support through the Jefferson County Superior Court
A man is a "presumed father" of a child born during the marriage (or within 300 days of a divorce). Even though husband and wife might have been separated for a while and/or they know the husband is not the biological father of the child, the husband is still considered the "presumed father" until a court order is entered that says the husband is not the father or until another man is legally established as the father of the child.
A paternity affidavit is a legal document, signed by the mother and the father (and the presumed father if the mother was married when the child was born) which legally establishes the father, adds his name to the birth certificate and gives him potential rights (visitation) and responsibilities (child support) of being a father. While it is a quicker way to establish paternity than through the court process, it can be hard to undo if someone changes their mind. The mother and potential father should carefully read the paternity affidavit and make sure they know the consequences of signing a paternity affidavit.
If both the mother and father agree (and the child was born in Washington), they can sign a paternity affidavit and take it to the Division of Child Support, where it can be notarized and sent to the Department of Health in Olympia for filing.
For more information about establishing paternity via a paternity affidavit, visit the Division of Child Support (DCS) website or call DCS at 800-457-6202. They can send you the paternity affidavit and an informational booklet free of charge.
If the father has passed away, the Family Support Division cannot file a court action to establish paternity. Any lawsuit against a deceased person must be filed against the deceased person’s personal representative as part of a probate action. Our office does not handle probate actions.
In some very limited circumstances, we may be able to help get genetic testing done so that the child can get social security death benefits, if otherwise eligible. If the father of a child has recently passed away and you are interested in genetic testing, call our office: 360-385-9359
The Family Support Division of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office files court actions to establish paternity of children. You do not have to be on public assistance to qualify for this service. Our office will only file paternity cases which have been referred to us by the Division of Child Support. Contact DCS 1-800-457-6202 for information about starting a paternity action.
Our office will only do genetic testing when we have filed a court action to establish paternity. We do not do genetic testing in cases our office has not filed in court. However, if you have a paternity action filed in another county, but reside in Jefferson County, we may conduct the genetic testing on behalf of the other county, at their request. If you reside in another county, but have a pending Jefferson County paternity action, we may request that another prosecuting attorney’s office or lab complete your genetic testing.
If your name is on the birth certificate because:
…someone told the hospital that you were married to the mother but you were not actually married to the mother. Call the Division of Child Support at 1-800-457-6202 and tell them you want to do a "paternity establishment action."
...you were married to the mother. You are legally presumed to be the father until you get divorced and your divorce addresses paternity of the child in question or you file a "disestablishment action" Our office does not handle either type of court action. Since there are time limits on when you can seek to disestablish paternity, you should consult with an attorney.
. . . you signed a paternity affidavit. You must act within certain legal time limits if you want to undo a paternity affidavit. Our office does not handle rescissions or challenges to paternity affidavits. You should consult with an attorney as soon as possible or if you want to try and look into it on your own, the legal time limits are in the statute called the Uniform Parentage Act, Chapter 26.26 RCW.
...a Court order established you as the father of a child. You have to bring a court action to "vacate" the court order. If our office was involved in the court order establishing you as the father we can review the case to figure out what, if anything, our office can do. Call our office at 360-385-9359 to discuss further.
Generally, you should file a Response to Petition to Decide Parentage (FL Parentage 302). These forms are available at the Washington Courts’ website. You must file a copy with the Jefferson County Superior Court and serve a copy on all parties, including the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Usually the Response must be filed and served within 20 days of you being served or accepting service.
It is recommended that you contact an attorney for legal assistance. If you are unable to find an attorney for your case, online resources may be available to assist you in filling out the forms. Please see Washington Law Help for their packet on responding to a Petition to Decide Paternity.
Usually the parties agree to genetic testing. If the parties do not agree to genetic testing, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will likely file a motion to obtain a court order to obtain genetic testing of the birth mother, child, and potential father. This motion is usually based upon an interview of the birth mother. The court will review the record and decide whether to order genetic testing.
Once an order requiring genetic testing is issued by the court, the parties will be required to come into the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office or another location to give a genetic sample. The sample will be sent to a lab for testing. Once the results are in, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will notify the parties. The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will then file the genetic testing. If the potential father is confirmed as the genetic parent, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will usually request financial documents from the potential father to obtain propose a child support payment.
If you want to request a deviation above or below the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office proposed child support transfer payment, you should follow the statutory requirements (RCW 26.19.020) and state your reasons in a sworn declaration (FL All Family 135), along with supporting documentation. The declaration is available at the Washington Courts’ website. You must file a copy with the Jefferson County Superior Court and serve a copy on all parties, including the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. You may also request a deviation during your hearing or trial.
A parenting plan is not required to obtain a paternity judgment or child support. The paternity judgment will only state who is the custodial parent of the child (who the child resides with most of the time), unless the parties agree to a parenting plan. Usually the parenting plans are completed after the paternity judgment. However, the parties can obtain a parenting plan during the paternity process. The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office does not take a position or become involved in parenting plans. The parties may come to an agreement over the parenting plan and file it with the court and serve copies on the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. If the parties are unable to agree to a parenting plan, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office may suggest a temporary parenting plan.
The Jefferson County Superior Court’s Clerk Office provides a family facilitator which may assist with parenting plan issues, such as explaining the family law process, identifying forms, scheduling hearings, and reviewing paperwork for completeness. They cannot provide legal advice or help fill out forms. This service is offered Wednesdays from 8:30am until 3:30pm on a walk-in basis. More information may be found at the Jefferson County Superior Court website or by contacting the Facilitator at (360) 385-9124
It depends on many factors, mostly whether or not people cooperate and follow through with what they are supposed to do. Most often cases are completed within 9 months by agreement, motion for summary judgment, or default (because one or both parties did not response). If the case proceeds to trial, it may take longer than 9 months.
No. The Family Support Division and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office do not represent either the mother or the father. The deputy prosecuting attorney in your case represents the State of Washington. You must retain an attorney if you want an attorney to represent you.
It is not legally binding for someone to admit verbally that he is the dad. If there is more than one possible father, genetic testing must be done. However, if there is only one possible father, he can admit he is the father but he must do it in writing, by completing a Response form, signing an Agreed Order Determining Parentage, or signing a Paternity Affidavit (see above). These forms can be found on the Washington Courts’ website.
The person taking the sample will ask you a few questions and rub a cotton swab (like a Q-Tip) inside your cheek. It takes a few minutes and does not hurt. Please bring picture identification.
No, genetic testing is free to all parties. The State pays for this service.
It depends on whether or not the mother and the father cooperate with genetic testing. If one or both do not cooperate, it can take months or longer. Once the mother, child and the father have been swabbed, genetic test results take 4-6 weeks. The results will be mailed to you. We cannot give you the results over the phone.
Once an order is entered establishing paternity, we will send a certified copy of the order to Vital Statistics and they will add the father’s name. It takes 6-8 weeks or longer. We will send you instructions on how to order a birth certificate when we send you a copy of the court’s order establishing paternity.
Many people ask if they have to come to court. The answer is that you are not under subpoena to appear in court and the Court will not issue a warrant if you do not attend. However, it is in your best interest to participate fully in this process and to come to court on the day of your hearing. Please plan on arriving 15 minutes before court is scheduled to begin. Please plan on setting aside half the day for the hearing.
The Jefferson County Superior Court hears paternity cases on Fridays at 2:00pm. The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will schedule the hearing and send notice to all parties through USPS mail. If you cannot attend the hearing, please contact the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and they will attempt to reschedule the hearing. Please contact them as soon as you learn you cannot attend the hearing. You can also request a continuance by filing paperwork with the Superior Court.
If you are planning to come to court, please let us know if you need any accommodations in terms of language interpreters or disability.
You will have a chance to talk to the Judge or Commissioner during the hearing. Often, the parties are limited to five minutes. While some people choose to hire an attorney to represent them, many do not. You may find it helpful to make a list of the things you want to tell the Court before coming to the courtroom.
If the other parent has not returned your child or violated your parenting plan in another way, call 911 and report the violation to your local police department. They may ask to see a certified copy of your parenting plan.
There is probably not much you can do until there is an actual a violation of the Court’s order. If your concerns are serious, you should have an attorney to represent you in this situation.
If you do not have an attorney, you can contact the Clallam - Jefferson County Pro Bono Lawyers at: 1-888-201-1014.