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Can uncles get visitation rights in Washington?

Most who have ever become uncles understand the special relationship between an adult and his nephews and nieces. That makes sense, as recent studies suggest that uncles play an important role in the development and wellbeing of children. 

If the parents of your nephews and nieces choose not to let you visit the children, you may feel a tremendous sense of loss. Thanks to a June 2018 change in Washington law, though, you may have some legal options. That is, you may be able to pursue legally protected visitation of your nephews and nieces. 

Filing for non-parent visitation 

In Washington, certain individuals have a right to file for non-parent visitation. While the law does not permit everyone to pursue visitation rights, the following individuals may: 

  •         Any blood relative
  •         The spouse of any blood relative
  •         A step-parent
  •         A step-sibling
  •         A half-sibling 

Because uncles are blood relatives, you may petition the court for visitation rights. To do so, you must file a petition with the Superior Court where your nephews and nieces live. 

Proving your case 

For a judge to approve your visitation petition, you must prove a two-part test. 

First, you must show you have an ongoing and substantial relationship with your nieces and nephews. Generally, this means demonstrating you have been in your nephews’ and nieces’ lives for at least two years. If they are under two, you must prove you have had mutual interaction with your nephews and nieces for at least half their lives. 

You also must prove that visiting your nephews and nieces is in their best interest. Because courts presume parents know what is best for the kids, you may have to overcome this presumption with evidence. Still, if you worry you may never see your nephews and nieces again, gathering evidence is likely worth the effort. 

Washington law offers some protection for uncles who wish to see their nieces and nephews. By understanding your legal rights, you can better advocate for yourself and the young ones in your extended family. 

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