As a father and a parent, you have certain rights and responsibilities. These include the right to take part in the raising of your children, in determining their education, moral upbringing, and more. Providing that the courts recognize you as the father of your child, these rights can only be challenged through a custody case. Possible results of a custody challenge could include splitting your access to your child with the mother, or potentially having even more limits imposed.
Unlike many decades ago, mothers no longer receive an unfair advantage in custody cases. While it’s true that the majority of custody battles still end up a victory for the mother, the number of fathers with sole custody is rising. When faced with a potential custody battle, it’s important to understand that you have father’s rights in Washington, and that you can protect them.
In Washington state, the father is determined through marriage, a parentage case, adoption papers, or a paternity acknowledgement. If the biological father is not married to the mother, he must establish paternity to gain rights as a father. Unmarried fathers do not have rights until they prove their paternity.
If you are not the child’s biological father, you may still defend your rights as a de-facto parent – by providing “specific facts” to support your claim as a parent of the child, according to relevant statutes in the Revised Code of Washington. These facts include, but aren’t limited to, proof of the following:
- The child lived with the parent for a significant time period
- The parent engaged in consistent caretaking of the child
- The parent undertook full parenting responsibilities without expectation of financial compensation