Family relations can be messy and complicated at times. And for many residents of the Tri-Cities, family has extended beyond parents and children. Many little ones have bonded with parents at levels that can warrant legal action if the continuity of the relationship is threatened.
The legislation on relatives’ custodial and visitation rights has evolved from what it used to be. For instance, RCW 11.130 replaced RCW 26.10 on June 7, 2018. These laws can be quite complex, and many grandparents seeking visitation for their grandchildren do not know where to start. Family lawyers in the Tri-Cities area can offer guidance to such families.
Where Should I File for Grandchild Visitation in Washington State?
Grandparents cannot just file for visitation in any court in Washington State. The petition should be presented in the court that has jurisdiction over the minor and within the county they reside in. In your petition, you should attach an affidavit indicating that:
- The child might suffer if the visitation isn’t granted
- You have a substantial ongoing relationship with your grandchild
Apart from the affidavit, the petition should also highlight facts supporting your petition. Remember to also serve the notice to anyone that has a court-ordered residential time or legal custody of the child. The parties might file an affidavit opposing your request. A hearing might follow if the judge deems it necessary.
What Should Be the Basis of My Petition?
Parents have a constitutional right to deny you contact with their child. Therefore, fighting for visitation might be an uphill task and could require the assistance of a seasoned Tri-Cities grandparents’ rights lawyer.
Consulting with an attorney early is important because it could help with timely preparation and compilation of evidence to back up your request. It might also assist in choosing the most appropriate approach and legal theory to use to obtain visitation in Washington State.
What Arguments Can I Use to Strengthen My Grandchild Visitation Case?
If you have the right arguments, you can convince the judge to grant you visitation rights in the Tri-Cities. Some of the grounds that might give you an advantage include:
- Having lived in the same household with the minor at some point
- Having assumed some parental roles at some point without expecting to be paid
- The parents had consented to you fostering a parent-like relationship with the minor
- You bonded with the child enough to warrant the visitation
The strongholds of your case are engraved in your history with the child. It simply needs you to demonstrate the negative impact a lack of visitation might have on the minor. And just like with all other cases involving children, the court prioritizes the child’s best interests.
What Will the Court Consider in Making a Decision?
It is easier to get visitation with your grandchild if his/her nuclear family has broken down. Grandparents are often allowed to spend time with the minor if the parents are going through a divorce, are already divorced, or are separated.
Other considerations include:
- Any history of neglect, sexual, physical, or emotional abuse by the grandparent
- Any past criminal history
- The parents’ custody arrangement
- The effects of the visitation on the parent-child relationship
- The reason and nature of either parent’s objection to the visitation
- Your relationship with each of the child’s parent
- The bond between you and your grandchild
The judge might examine the circumstances of your unique case and decide on:
- The appropriateness of the visitation
- The frequency of the visitation
- The amount of visitation to grant
Can I File Again if My First Petition is Denied?
Unfortunately, you cannot file a petition for visitation twice in Washington State. One of the requirements for filing is that you need not have filed a similar case before. But once is enough if you do it correctly. An experienced Tri-Cities grandparents’ rights lawyer can ensure that your petition is convincing enough for the judge to schedule a hearing.
The legal expert could document the length and quality of your relationship with your grandchild. They will also seek to find out how old the child is and request the judge to have them express their preference if they are old enough.
What Happens if I Lose the Case?
Sometimes, the judge might not find it necessary to grant grandparents visitation in your case. This can happen when there’s inadequate preparation for the case and can come with some grave consequences. If the judge finds that the petition was brought in bad faith, they can ask you to pay the respondent’s attorney fees and other costs.
The respondent is also allowed to file a motion to recover costs incurred. While the judge might grant such requests, you might not end up paying the money. A skilled Tri-Cities grandparents’ rights lawyer could ask the judge to release you from this obligation if it would be unjust considering your financial situation and that of the respondent.
Why Do I Need an Attorney?
The laws regarding non-parental visitation in Washington have several legally complicated terms that can be confusing to a layperson. For instance, a child’s best interest (BIOTC) might be challenging to establish, especially if the minors aren’t old enough. Similarly, attachment, psychological, and emotional harm are not easy to prove.
The standard of proof is also quite high, higher than a regular custody dispute in Washington State. Similarly, you only have one shot at it, and you got to get a grandparents’ rights attorney in the Tri-Cities area that will make it worthwhile. Don’t risk going into your petition alone or with an inexperienced representative.
Attorneys Fighting for a Bright Future for You and Your Family
One of the cases you don’t want to get wrong is a petition for visitation in the Tri-Cities. You also want to choose the right visitation lawyer to represent you in your legal pursuit. If you mess up with your first and only chance, you might never get it again.
We can help you restore your valuable relationship with your grandchildren in Washington State. Speak to us today, and we will help you avoid costly mistakes.