Third Party Custody: How to be Parent while not a Parent

Third party custody is governed by a statute called Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 26.10. This statute used to be referred to as the “grandparent custody act”. It also permits aunts, uncles and other interested third parties to obtain custody of a child. Normally third parties seek custody where either both parents are unfit or the child was voluntarily placed with a third party by their parents.

In some cases parents allow temporary guardianship of their children with a third party.  This can be when a parent needs to go to treatment to get their life together or has a military service that will take them away for a period of time or another reason.  This is not the same as a third party custody case.

Washington State has statutory law that addresses third party custody. A third party is often a relative like a grandparent, uncle or sister.  Many grandparents are raising their grandchildren because biological parents are not able or willing to take care of them. Sometimes Child Protective Services gets involved and asks either grandparents or other relatives to file for custody to avoid foster care.

It is much less common, but there are also cases involving non-biological parties who act as though they are the parents to a child.  They get to be known as “de facto” parents. There are specific requirements to be met to qualify as a de facto parent in Washington State.

Third party custody cases where parents are living in different states can get complicated quickly as the issue of appropriate venue comes up.  It can lead to inter-state jurisdiction issues. If a child is taken by a sister or uncle to Washington and the parents live in another state there could be a dispute as to where the case should be heard. The issue of jurisdiction can also come up if all parties live in Washington State, but in different counties within the State, like Kitsap, Snohomish and King county, for example.

Miller Law Group, LLC, has experience with third party custody cases and wants to help you if you are trying to gain custody of a child you love who is not your direct offspring.

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