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Can grandparents get custody of their grandchildren?

Across the country, grandparents fight for custody of children trapped in poor living conditions or mixed up in bad situations. Instead of letting the state take the children to foster care, grandparents have tasked themselves with raising them.

How difficult is the process of grandparent adoption in the state of Washington?

Current Washington statutes

Washington laws regarding grandparents rights have not gained notoriety because of their helpfulness. In fact, Washington's current laws do not grant grandparents rights at all. For example, if one parent dies, the surviving parent automatically gets custody of the children, even if that parent is not involved in the children's' lives.

Grandparents have begun to fight the automatic custody of children, especially in the midst of the current opioid crisis. With the rising deaths of one parent or both, it is critical that grandparents acquire some kind of legal right to gain custody of displaced and grieving children.

The de facto statute

One prong of the custody statutes that grandparents cling to is the de facto clause. In this, the statutes allow grandparents acting as de facto parents to have visitation and some custody rights if an issue arises. A de facto parent is someone meeting the following criteria:

  • Lives with the children
  • Has a close, parent-like relationship with the children
  • Acts in a parental fashion to the children
  • Cares for the children with no financial gain

The problem with this statute is it does not guarantee grandparents may assume the mantle of a parent in the event of death or divorce.

The traditional role of a grandparent has evolved, and many older people have taken on raising their grandchildren. While getting custody is never a given, even in the event of both parents dying, it is possible.

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