Filing A Third Party Custody Case in Washington

Posted On May 13, 2023 Custody

In certain situations, a third party may seek custody of a child, such as a grandparent or a close family friend, if they believe it is in the child’s best interests. In the state of Washington, pursuing a third-party custody case requires understanding the legal process and the relevant factors considered by the courts.

Understanding Third Party Custody

Third-party custody refers to situations where someone other than a parent seeks legal custody of a child. It may arise when the child’s parents are unable to provide a safe and stable environment or if there are concerns regarding the child’s well-being while in the care of their parents. The state of Washington recognizes that it is sometimes necessary to award custody to a third party to protect the best interests of the child.

Eligibility for Filing a Third-Party Custody Case

To file a third-party custody case in Washington, the following conditions must generally be met:

  • The third party must have an established relationship with the child: This relationship can be familial, such as being a grandparent or a sibling, or a close relationship like a close family friend or a stepparent.
  • The child’s parents must be deemed unfit or unable to care for the child: The court will assess the parents’ ability to provide a safe and stable environment, considering factors like neglect, abuse, substance abuse issues, or incarceration.
  • The child’s welfare must be at risk: The court will consider whether the child is exposed to physical or emotional harm or whether the child’s basic needs are not being met in their current living situation.

Process for Filing a Third-Party Custody Case in Washington

Here are the general steps for filing a third-party custody case in Washington:

Consultation With an Attorney

It is highly recommended to seek legal advice from an experienced Spokane third party custody attorney. They can provide guidance specific to your situation and ensure that you understand the legal process.

Petition for Custody

The first step in filing a third party custody case is to prepare and file a petition with the appropriate Washington court. This document outlines your request for custody and provides details about the child, the parents, and your relationship with the child.

Provide Supporting Evidence

To strengthen your case, gather relevant documents and evidence that support your claim for custody. For example, this may include medical records, school records, witness statements, photographs, or any other evidence that the child’s best interests are served by granting you custody.

Serve Notice to the Parents

Once the petition is filed, you must ensure that the child’s parents are served with a copy and a summons to appear in court. This should be done by a process server or someone over 18 years old who is not involved in the case.

Attend Court Hearings

The court will schedule hearings to address the custody matter. It is crucial to attend these hearings and present your case in a clear and organized manner, highlighting why you should be granted custody. The court will consider:

  • The child’s relationship with the third party seeking custody.
  • The child’s current living situation and stability.
  • The mental and physical health of all parties involved.
  • The child’s preference, if they are of sufficient age and maturity to express a reasoned choice.
  • Any history of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence.

The court’s primary focus is always on what is best for the child.

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