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Grandparents’ rights in Washington

On Behalf of | Oct 1, 2018 | Child Custody & Visitation, Grandparent Rights |

Given the strong bond that many grandparents in Federal Way establish with their grandchildren, one might assume that the law recognizes their right have to continued access to their grandchildren should situational changes restrict it. After all, one might argue that continuing a relationship with a grandparent would certainly be in a child’s best interests. However, recent years have seen the issue of grandparent visitation in Washington become increasingly complex. 

One might find multiple references Section 26.09.240 in the Revised Code of Washington, wherein the state’s grandparent visitation law is found. However, a search of that section in the state’s code on the website for the Washington State Legislature will show that this particular law is nowhere to be found. That is because a Washington State Supreme Court ruling issued in 2000 found the law to be too broad and thus declared it to be unconstitutional (and therefore invalid). 

Rather, when considering visitation requests by people other than a child’s parents, the state established a “de facto parent” standard in another State Supreme Court Ruling in 2005. To be considered a de facto parent, the following must apply to one’s situation: 

  • The de facto parent relationship had the consent of the child’s legal parent
  • The de facto parent lived with the child
  • The de facto parent had assumed that role with the expectation of compensation
  • The de facto parent relationship had been in place long enough to establish a dependent relationship with the child

Many grandparent visitation cases fail to meet that standard. Thus, as it stands, there is no law in place regulating grandparent visitation. Indeed, the same ruling that established the de facto parent standard states that the Court recommends that the state establish legislative criteria to address third party visitation rights.