While most Washington courts prefer that parents remain active in a child’s life, it’s not always in the best interest of the child to live with the parents. If one or both parents are unstable or abusive, a non-parent can petition for custody.
According to Yakima County, if you seek custody of a child who is not biologically yours, you can file for third-party custody, also known as Minor Guardianship. Although grandparents most often petition for guardianship, other family members or non-related adults may also file for legal guardianship.
The basis for third-party custody
When grandparents or other relatives file for minor guardianship, it’s more than asserting visitation rights. It is committing to the complete care and upbringing of the child. If you believe you can give your grandchild, niece, younger sibling or cousin a better life than the parents, you may have an uphill battle ahead of you. When both parents are still living and one or both want to retain custody, you must show they cannot or do not adequately care for the child. Established bonds with the extended family, especially if the child doesn’t live at home full-time, may make it easier to obtain custody.
The process for minor guardianship
One of the first steps to gaining custody involves serving papers to each parent, notifying them of your intent. The complex process of getting minor guardianship includes a background check of all adults who live in your home. This includes confirming whether anyone has a criminal record and ascertains whether you can care for the child satisfactorily. Depending on the child’s age, the court may interview them and ask about their preference. The unique circumstances of your case may determine whether you receive temporary or permanent custody.