Third Party Custody (aka Nonparental Custody)
Sometimes parents can’t, or shouldn’t, take care of their own children. In 2019, the Census Bureau found that 4% of all children lived with neither of their parents (in “nonparental custody”). Of the 3.0 million children living with a nonparent over half (53.2 percent) of these children resided with a grandparent. Grandparents specifically, and related family members more generally, who rally to ensure that an infant or young child is cared for often don’t realize that they have no “rights”. That is, unless and until they obtain a court order through the Minor Guardianship statute, RCW 11.130 (formerly RCW 26.10, Third Party Custody). RCW 11.130 was a legislative response to the most important family law case to go before the U.S. Supreme Court in recent history, Troxel v. Glanville, which was a challenge to Washington State’s former Third Party Custody statute, RCW 26.10 (now repealed eff. 1/1/21).
Often the reason that parents can’t care for their children is that they have engaged in child abuse, or suffer from mental illness or substance abuse that renders them potentially dangerous to the safety of their own children. Such children can be forcibly removed from their homes by Child Protective Services (CPS) and become “dependents” (fka “wards of the state”) pursuant to RCW 13.34. In such situations, relatives of the children are supposed to get preference when CPS or the court looks at possible out-of-home placements while their parents attempt rehabilitation. RCW 13.34.130.
From 1996 to 2006 Bruce Pruitt-Hamm prosecuted cases for Child Protective Services and worked with many relatives who wanted to take custody of the children before the court. He knows “the system” and can help relatives who want to help children whose parents, for whatever reason, can’t or won’t fulfill their parenting duties. Give us a call at 206-327-9335.