More than 40 years ago, virtually no one heard of visitation rights for grandparents in Washington state. Once spouses divorced, one set of parents usually remained out of their grandchildren’s lives, even if they wanted to see them. Years ago, visitation rights only applied to a child’s parents. However, visitation laws have changed over the years, allowing some grandparents to see their grandchildren.
Grandparents’ rights stem from a Washington case
In 2000, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the right of grandparents to visit their grandchildren in the case of Troxel v. Granville, where the mother, Tommie Granville, limited visitation rights to once a month and some holidays. The petitioners asked for expanded rights to visit their deceased son’s daughter. Essentially, the Supreme Court ruling indicated that third-party visitation rights are not unconstitutional per se. The ruling gave substantial deference to a parent’s decision of what is in their child’s best interest when weighing visitation rights. Thus, third-party visitation rights, which means anyone who is not a child’s biological mother or father, can petition the courts to allow them to see a child or children with whom they have a relationship.
Petitioning your rights as grandparents
Grandparents’ visitation rights and third-party custody are possible in Washington state. You have the right to see our grandchildren if you do not pose a credible threat under the law. If a divorce settlement does not specify your rights, you can still work toward seeing your grandchildren, even if one spouse objects.
Third-party custody is also possible if you feel that either your child or their ex-spouse is not fit for custody due to various circumstances. Washington state now calls third-party custody minor guardianship, which is essentially the same as the previous third-party designation.