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When can courts award guardianship to nonparents?

On Behalf of | Apr 6, 2023 | Child Custody & Parenting Time |

When courts decide on child custody cases, they typically award primary custody to either parent or issue a shared parenting arrangement. However, some circumstances force courts to place the child with a third party.

Third-party custody is when the court awards another person other than the child’s parent, biological or adoptive, custody of the child. Washington called this nonparental custody. However, in 2021, the state replaced nonparental custody with minor guardianship. With the new law, a court can appoint someone who is not the child’s parent to make decisions and care for them.

Circumstances allowing minor guardianship

A nonparent can file for guardianship of a minor under the following circumstances:

  • A guardianship is in the child’s best interest
  • Both parents gave their consent to the guardianship
  • The court terminates all parental rights, ending the legal parent-child relationship
  • Both parents do not show any willingness to exercise their parental functions

While most nonparental cases involve the child’s grandparents, other concerned individuals such as siblings, uncles, aunts and relatives can file a petition for guardianship. If the court awards the guardianship, the nonparent applicant gets physical custody of the child. Normally, this lasts until the child is no longer a minor.

What are parental functions?

Parental functions refer to those acts necessary for the child’s care and growth. This includes keeping a loving relationship with the child, ensuring that the child’s daily needs are met and managing the child’s educational and developmental affairs.

Filing any custody action is difficult and can be complex. Consequently, individuals seeking minor guardianship must research the appropriate information on the process and gather evidence to prove that their action to seek guardianship is justifiable.