Third-party custody and visitation of children in a divorce

All parents want a loving atmosphere for their children. And typically, when there are more people to provide support for the children, the better. “Third-parties” such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and even family friends (“fictive kin”) often take part in caring for a child by babysitting, or sometimes providing long-term care. However, in some situations, a parent might not be fit to parent their children.

In those cases, these third-parties may want to pursue “non-parental custody” of a child. These cases are difficult, as a parent’s right to exercise control over his or her child is protected under the United States Constitution. If a grandparent or other third-party wants to obtain legal custody of a child, then the third-party must prove that a parent is unfit, or that placing the child with the parent would be detrimental to the child’s growth and development.

Also, even if obtaining non-parental custody is not feasible, when the relationship between the parents and the non-parents falls apart, the non-parents can pursue court-ordered visitation. This is referred to as “third-party visitation.”

These types of cases most frequently arise in the form of grandparents seeking visitation with their grandchildren (although nothing prevents someone who is not a grandparent from seeking visitation). Under Washington law, a third-party may request visitation with a child in the event that the parents are divorced, separated, or in the process of a divorce.

In order to be successful in this request, the third-party must demonstrate  — among other factors — that he or she already has a significant relationship with the child. The trial court will consider a list of other items in determining whether visitation is in the child’s best interest, including the reasons the parents object to visitation, the relationship between the third-party and the parents, the strength of the relationship between the child and the third-party, and the visitation schedule in place between the two parents.

If the third-party proves all of the factors associated with third-party custody, then it is presumed that visitation would be in the child’s best interest. A parent may produce evidence to rebut this presumption, and demonstrate that visitation would endanger the child’s physical or emotional well-being.

A third-party should be cautious about when to bring such an action. For one, there is the potential of forever alienating the parents of the child. Also, if a third-party cannot successfully prove a pre-existing significant relationship with the child, the third-party may be ordered to pay the attorney’s fees incurred by the parents.

Third-party custody and visitation cases can be complicated and challenging, with the odds in favor of the parents, no matter how wonderful the relationship between the third-parties and children may be. We at The Levey Law Group have extensive experience helping both parents and third-parties in these types of disputes. Call us today at (253) 272-9459 to set up a consultation to discuss your case and your options.

 

Understanding your role in the divorce process

For most people, divorce is a serious and difficult life crisis. Yet, when facing divorce, it is important to understand that divorce is much more than this. For one, divorce is a process — a fairly lengthy process, measured in months not days.

Divorce is also a lawsuit — one that typically involves not only the divorce law in Washington, but possibly other forms of law such as immigration law, the state Constitution, the Rules of Civil Procedure, the Rules of Evidence, Civil Practice & Remedies Code, Penal Code, Business Organizations Code, federal tax laws, and/or bankruptcy laws. In short, divorce can be complicated and complex.

Divorce is definitely a tough time on many levels and emotions run high. Yet, it is really a good idea to try your hardest not to get angry when you are discussing divorce issues with your spouse. Anger will not solve over-all issues and could delay the divorce process, or make it far more difficult to get to a final settlement. It is also a good time to talk with a therapist and find out how you might better process the negative emotions you are feeling.

As much as possible, proceed carefully and methodically through the process of divorce. This is especially true when you and your spouse have children together. Your divorce decree may affect your life, the lives of your children and your relationship with your children for many years to come.

Learn all you can from your attorney about the law as it pertains to your unique case. Think through issues and goals before taking a stand on a specific settlement arrangement. Boil down what is really important to you. And always review any settlement offer with your lawyer before proceeding.

Our attorneys are trained in all methods of dispute resolution, including Collaborative Divorce. We have extensive experience in guiding clients to a settlement with their futures in mind. Contact us today at (253) 272-9459 for an appointment.