Family relations can be messy and complicated sometimes. It can be frustrating when one or both parents object to a grandparent maintaining contact with a child. Most grandparents fail to realize that there are legal options they can explore to restore this relationship.
The laws on non-parent visitation and custody have undergone many changes over the years. Family lawyers in the Tri-Cities are always up-to-date with the latest developments in this area of the law. Grandparents seeking to rebuild relationships with their grandkids need legal guidance to avoid mistakes that could ruin their limited chances.
What are the Requirements for Filing for Visitation Rights?
As soon as a grandparent feels like their usual relationship or interactions with their grandchild are interfered with, they ought to try and restore it as soon as possible. They first need to be certain that they meet the minimum eligibility requirements, including:
- Being a relative of the child
- Had a substantial ongoing relationship with the minor for not less than two years
- Had an ongoing relationship for at least half the life of the child, if they are under two years of age
- The child is likely to suffer if the petition is denied
- You had not filed a petition before that
If you tick all the above boxes, make sure you file in the proper court. Notably, you have to file in the county where the child primarily lives. You must also notify the biological parents and anyone else with court-ordered visitation time or legal custody.
What is the Procedure for Filing for Grandparents’ Visitation in Washington State?
The technical process begins when you file a petition requesting the court to grant you visitation rights. It is critical to attach written statements of people that think you should have visited. Once you file, the judge might read through the paperwork and schedule a hearing.
At the hearing, the child’s parents get a chance to argue against the petition. The new law gives a fit parent a “presumption” in their favor. Therefore, you have to make a persuasive argument to be granted visitation over the parent’s objections.
What if the Parent Objects to Grandparents’ Visitation?
Parents have a right to raise their children without external interference. However, the best interests of a child override this right. Sometimes, this interest could involve maintaining their relationship with their grandparents. An ongoing relationship means:
- Mutual affection
- Mutual interaction
It might be challenging for a parent to object to an ongoing grandparent-grandchild relationship built in the following ways:
- Living together in the same household
- The child has been around the grandparent long enough to have established a dependent relationship
- The legal parents consented for the grandparent and grandchild to have the relationship
- The grandparent assumed certain responsibilities related to the child without expecting any financial compensation
The most significant objection that a parent can raise is stipulating that continuing with the relationship wouldn’t benefit the minor. They might have to prove that the child could be negatively affected physically or emotionally. A Tri-Cities grandparents’ rights attorney can skillfully dispute the objections.
What Does the Judge Consider in a Non-Parent Visitation Hearing?
During the non-parent visitation hearing, the judge gets to listen to the reasons why you feel that continuing with your relationship with a child is necessary. They will also pay attention to why the parents are against it. After that, they could make a decision based on:
- Any criminal history of sexual, emotional, or physical neglect or abuse
- The good faith of the relative filing the petition
- The residential time-sharing arrangements between the parents
- The impact the grandparents’ visitation might have on the relationship between the parents and the child
- The relationship the grandparent has with the parents
- The strength of the bond between the grandparent and the child
- The nature and reasons for either parent’s objection
Visitation is granted only if:
- The visits would benefit the child’s best interests
- Lack of it would be harmful to the child
What Happens if I File on Time and Win the Case?
Arguments that are clear and convincing are highly likely to grant you the visitation rights of a grandparent. However, it does not mean that you also receive parental duties and rights. But you might be required to cater to the transportation costs involved in the visitation.
The court might also ask you to pay the parents’ attorney fees upfront. But if it is unfair based on the financial situation of all the parties involved, that might not be the case. Just make sure that you have a Tri-Cities grandparents’ rights attorney to fight for you.
Why do I Need an Attorney?
The legal standards for petitioning non-parental visitation rights are higher than what is required in a typical divorce case. Therefore, seeking the legal advice of a Tri-Cities grandparents’ rights attorney is very critical to the success of your case.
Keep in mind that a grandparent only gets one shot at this. And if it is denied, you might never get another chance to file. While you can file a motion asking the court to reconsider the decision, you have to do so within ten days of the ruling. So, it is safer to get things done the first time correctly.
Lawyers Pursuing a Bright Future For You and Your Grandchildren
It is not easy to think straight when you are worried about losing the bond you’ve had with your grandchildren for a while. And it is normal to worry about timelines and all other forms of hindrances to your legal quest.
The rules on non-parents seeking visitation rights are quite strict, and it is easy to mess up if you are not an expert in the ever-changing law profession in Washington State. Pacific Northwest Family Law attorneys can represent you and aggressively fight for your rights. Talk to us today to discuss your family issues.