A new case from the court of appeals, In Re Parentage of M.K.R., 61138, division I, held that DCS has standing to file a petition challenging paternity whether or not there is a presumed father.
The ruling is a victory for the common-sense proposition that the actual father, as determined by DNA testing, ought to be liable for child support, as opposed to the presumed father, as determined by the person who was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth.
The Washington Uniform Parentage Act, RCW 26.26 et. seq., makes a man the presumptive father of any child born to his spouse during marriage. That presumption becomes irrebuttable after two years, meaning that the husband becomes the legal father, even if he isn’t the biological father, if he fails to challenge paternity within two years.
However, at least four other parties have an interest in a given child’s paternity: the child, the state, the mother, and any other potential father. The child’s interest and the parent’s interests are fairly obvious. The state’s primary interest is the collection of child support so the child won’t go on welfare.
By statute, all these parties have standing to adjudicate their interests. This case clarifies that the state (DCS) has standing whether or not there is a presumed father. In this case, the presumed father neglected to deny paternity within the two year deadline. However, DCS did file within the two-year deadline.
The biological father, who did not want to be stuck with child support, argued that the presumed father’s failure to timely file was fatal and the presumed father was stuck with paying child support for someone else’s child.
The presumed father, on the other hand, argued that DCS’ timely filing of the petition effectively kept the window open for him, allowing him to avoid child support and make the biological father pay. The trial court agreed with the biological father.
The appellate court reversed.