Starting January 1, 2021, Washington state will adopt a new law regulating minor guardianship, formerly referred to as nonparental custody.
The new law will effectively replace the current nonparent custody law and allow an individual to ask for “legal guardianship” of a minor instead of a nonparent custody order.
Who can apply for minor guardianship?
Minor guardianship, formerly referred to as nonparent custody, allows someone who isn’t the de facto parent of a child to gain legal custody of them.
The new law will not affect pre-existing non-parent custody orders; any valid nonparent custody orders will still be in effect after the first of next year. The process also does not apply to non-parents seeking visitation rights.
How does the process work?
The person who wants to gain custody must file a case in a Washington court. The parents and/or other guardians of the child are then allowed to object to this action. If the parent decides they want to object to the order, the nonparent would have to prove either that the parent is unfit to retain guardianship of the child or that living with the parent would negatively affect the child’s growth and development.
Furthermore, a judge may deny a petition for guardianship independent of any objections from the parents if he deems that it is not in the best interest of the child to live with the petitioner.
Exercising rights and protecting children
If you are concerned about a child’s well-being or are a parent who wants to retain custody of their child, you must know what laws exist to protect children in Washington. Questions about specific situations should always be directed to a trusted and qualified legal professional.
With any change in law, new conflicts and disputes are sure to follow. Staying informed about changes in the law can help you protect the well-being of you and your loved ones.