In the 1970’s, RCW 26.09.240, a Washington Statute, gave non-parental parties the option to petition the court for visitation rights with a child. In my practice, that law was most pursued by grandparents whose contact with their grandchildren had been limited or denied entirely. However, in 2005, the Supreme Court of Washington ruled the statute unconstitutional by the decision of In re Parentage of C.A.M.A., 154 Wash.2d 52, 109 P.3d 405 (2005). The text of that decision can be found on the web.
Since 2005, there has been no other Washington law supporting non-parental visitation of minor children. However, good news! Governor Inslee recently signed Senate Bill 5598 into law. It will become effective within 90 days after the 2018 Legislative Session ended. Since the 2018 Regular Session adjourned sine die on March 8, 2018, that third party visitation statute goes into effect on June 6, 2018. A copy of the Final Bill Report and the statute itself are linked here.
While this law opens the door once again to non-parental family visitation requests, there are hurdles the petitioning party must clear to obtain a court order. Those challenges include consideration of whether a parent objects and the non-parental visitation petition must show that court-ordered visitation is in the child’s best interests. I anticipate that there will be mandatory forms generated and each court will likely develop a process for how to handle those cases. Given the requirements of the statute and burden of proof on a petitioner, I recommend that an attorney be engaged to consult, develop the facts, draft proper forms, file and serve, as appear at hearing to argue the petitioner’s case. Please contact Gobel Law Office, PLLC at (509) 624-4102 for more information about Washington’s new non-parental visitation statute.