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Do Grandparents Have Custody Rights?

updated:
6/7/2023

Grandparents are an important part of many Americans’ lives. They provide love, support, and a sense of family that can be hard to come by in today's fast-paced world. But what happens when their grandchild’s parents can't care for him or her?

Do grandparents have the right to seek custody in those circumstances? What are the guidelines surrounding grandparent visitation? In this blog post, we explore the state of Washington's laws concerning custody rights for grandparents, as well as other options available if they don't want to pursue full legal custody. In addition, we explore how an experienced grandparents' rights attorney can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system and ensure that your relationship with your grandchild remains strong.

Through providing research results, experience stories, and resources like lawyers and organizations that help families enforce these rights, our team at the Hodgson Law Offices hopes you'll gain a better understanding of how to protect your grandchildren's best interests during challenging times.

Overview of Grandparents' Custody Rights

Washington is an attractive location for grandparents who wish to establish legal custody rights over their grandchildren. The state recognizes that in certain circumstances based on the child's parents, having custody of a grandchild can be in the grandchild’s best interest.

While grandparents must obtain a court order to secure such rights, Washington provides guidelines to facilitate the process. This includes situations related to the death or disappearance of a parent, neglect on the part of a parent, and even if the child's parents agree that assigning custody to grandparents is the right decision.

In these cases where it's determined that granting custody rights to a grandparent could prove beneficial, Washington offers Medicaid coverage for grandparent visitation as well as qualified financial assistance for those with limited means.

In any dispute between grandparents and parents about custodial rights, however, the courts always take into consideration what will be ultimately in the best interests of the grandchild.

custody grandparents rights

Overview of Grandparents' Visitation Rights

Do grandparents have any visitation rights? Grandparents in the state of Washington are guaranteed certain grandparent visitation rights. According to law, a grandparent can request visitation with their grandchildren if the grandparents have established a meaningful relationship with them and it's deemed in the best interest of the child.

The court looks at factors such as whether or not both parents consent to the visit, any family matters that could arise due to such a visit, and more. It's important for grandparents to always make sure that their visits don't disrupt any agreements that have already been reached between parents.

Washington also allows step-grandparents and adoptive grandparents similar visitation rights; however, it's important to understand that there may be restrictions imposed based on family agreements or application statuses.  

At the Hodgson Law Office, we hope that knowing these rights gives grandparents peace of mind knowing they can stay connected with their grandchildren even if life changes or conflicts occur.

When May Grandparents Have Custody Rights?

In any case, where a grandparent seeks to assume legal custody of their grandchild, they may face an uphill battle. Grandparents traditionally must demonstrate that their ages, health, and financial situation would provide a better quality of life for the child than that which is currently provided.

A court will weigh both the rights of the parents to control their child's upbringing and what is in the child's best interests before deciding on such matters — it's essential that grandparents have compelling evidence to successfully secure custody.

If both parents are still alive, the burden of proof is slightly higher for grandparents to obtain custody of a child. Establishing that both parents are unfit to act in the best interest of the child may be necessary, usually due to issues like child abuse or neglect, mental illness, or addiction. Aside from this challenge, grandparents often face additional competition with other close family members for custody.

A court's decision on this matter will always consider the best interests of the child. Additionally, in some cases, a grandparent must have cared for the grandchild in question for at least one year before they may win legal guardianship in court.

In the event of the death of the custodial parent, a grandparent can obtain custody. Courts will prioritize retaining custody with the other parent, however, only if it is deemed to be in the child's best interests.

Grandparents or other close relatives may present evidence that shows another option would be favorable; for instance, if stability with a grandparent has already been established or if the deceased parent appointed them as legal guardians in their will.

A court may also pay mind to the wishes of the child themselves should they wish to reside with their grandparent.

Can Grandparents Apply to the Courts for Access to Their Grandchildren?

In the state of Washington, grandparents can apply to the courts for child custody access to their grandchildren provided certain qualifications are met.

Generally speaking, if a grandparent can demonstrate that their relationship has been beneficial and meaningful for the grandchild's well-being, and/or devastation would occur should contact be severed, then a court may be more likely to grant visitation rights.

If a parent actively attempts to prevent any relationship between the grandparent and grandchild, it is still possible but often more challenging to prove that such contact is in the child's best interests.

Depending on the severity of the circumstances at hand, where necessary the court may appoint psychologists or other legal help to further assess a given situation before making its final decision.

family court grandparents rights

How to Pursue Grandparents’ Custody Rights

Pursuing grandparent custody rights in the state of Washington can be a long and challenging road, but with the right guidance, it's possible to succeed.

The first step is to thoroughly research the legal case involving your grandchild’s guardianship; this means conducting an online search of state permissive visitation laws, consulting a family law attorney, or even talking to other professionals who have gone through similar situations.

Once you've familiarized yourself with the permissive visitation statutes and restrictive visitation statutes involved in filing for custody of grandparents' rights in Washington, then you'll need to properly document your role as a grandparent and prove that guardianship would be in your grandchild’s best interest.

After completing all of these steps and meeting any additional requirements established by the court system, you can finally move forward with your pursuit of custody grandparents' rights.

Although this process can seem complex and intimidating at first glance, gathering the right information and support before proceeding makes it possible to understand and successfully achieve your goal. In addition, rest assured that our team is here to answer any questions that you have about grandparent custody, grandparent visitation, and more.

Evaluating the Best Interests of the Child and Grandparents’ Rights

In Washington state, there are specific guidelines that must be adhered to determine the best interests of a child in family law cases.

Numerous factors—including the child's developmental stage, sense of stability, parent-child relationship, relationship with relevant third parties, and more—are taken into consideration.

Furthermore, grandparents' rights are treated with great seriousness by the judicial system and are heavily involved in a variety of proceedings. Situations that range from the guardianship of a grandchild to seeking visitation rights can be addressed through mediation or an application with the court.

Courts strive to ensure these disputes are conducted efficiently and fairly which safeguards both grandparent-grandchild relationships and parental rights.

Do You Need Assistance with Custody Rights? The Hodgson Law Office Has You Covered

Ultimately, it's important to remember that the most important factor when considering grandparents’ custody and visitation rights is the best interests of the child.

A child's relationship with his or her grandparents can be an invaluable asset in a child's life and grandparents should be given every opportunity to play an active role in their grandchild’s life. Courts take many factors into account when considering grandparents’ custody, visitation, and legal rights, but there's no one-size-fits-all answer.

Each case is unique and should be considered carefully. If you or other family members would like more information about pursuing grandparents’ custody rights, please contact us at the Hodgson Law Office!

Our knowledgeable legal team can provide valuable advice and help develop a customized strategy to maximize your chances of success in court. Don't wait any longer; contact us to let us help you build your case today!

FAQ

What orders can grandparents seek in court?

Depending on your situation, it is always best to consult with a lawyer about the most suitable court order for your family. Several commonly-used orders include:

  • Special Guardianship Order which grants the grandparent guardianship until the child turns 18;
  • Child Arrangement Order which includes arrangements for contact between the grandchild and their family;
  • Kinship foster care where grandparents become official foster carers;
  • Adoption, which legally makes the grandparent a parent of their grandchild and severs ties with the birth parents.

The courthouse may also provide grandparents’ rights as part of existing family court proceedings.

What should I do if I can’t see my grandchildren?

Grandparents in Washington have rights if they can't visit their grandchildren. It's best to try to resolve the situation informally, but if it isn't successful, it may be necessary to seek outside assistance such as family mediation or the family court system. Grandparents can file court papers if they cannot come to a resolution with their grandchildren's parents.

What is the legal process like for grandparents’ rights?

Grandparents in Washington must go through a legal process to gain custody of their grandchildren. This includes a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to work out an agreement. From there, they must apply directly to the court for custody rights. Finally, a hearing at the family court will be held to make a decision. All involved parties must take into consideration all elements involved before initiating any action to ensure the best possible outcome.

Mark D. Hodgson

Mark D. Hodgson

Mark D. Hodgson and his legal team at Hodgson Law Office provide exceptional, personalized representation in family law and divorce cases. With a commitment to trust, integrity, and vigorous advocacy, Hodgson Law Office offers reliable and compassionate legal assistance for all your family law issues.

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