Under certain circumstances a non-parent, such as a grandparent, may wish
to petition the court for visitation rights that are arguably in the child’s
best interest. The Washington State legislature passed two statutes–RCW
26.09.240 and RCW 26.10.160(3)–that address this kind of situation
and provide for a process to obtain non-parental visitation rights.
However, the Supreme Court declared those statutes unconstitutional. The
Court reasoned that since parenting is a constitutionally fundamental
right, a higher standard than “the best interests of the child”
is required to overcome that right and require a parent to comply with
a residential schedule involving a non-parent. The Washington statutes
cited above used the “best interests of the child” standard.
Therefore, until the legislature sees fit to rewrite the statutes, non-parental
visitation may only be accomplished by agreement between the parties,
or through a full blown non-parental custody action. A non-parental custody
action is designed to allow non-parents to intervene in the child’s
best interest in situations of abuse and neglect. The legal standards
in such an action are high, and cases can be very involved and complex.
A Seattle child custody attorney should be consulted regarding a case
where such an action may be warranted.
The Washington State Supreme Court has allowed a cause of action for “de
facto” parent status. This action can be brought when a person acts
as a parent to a child, but has not adopted the child or had a paternity
declaration. The standards of such an action are very narrow and very
technical, and a competent Seattle family law attorney ought to be consulted.
McKinley Irvin family law attorneys have represented clients in hundreds
of child custody cases and are thoroughly familiar with Washington State
Seattle child custody attorneys from McKinley Irvin are available to represent
either the parent or non-parent in third-party visitation cases.