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Family law and relatives seeking visitation with minor children

Family legal issues in Spokane can take many forms and involve a great number of people. One dispute that frequently arises is custody and visitation of a dependent child from members of the family that are relatives, but not parents. It's important to know how the law views these issues before taking the matter up in court should there be an objection to the visitation occurring.

The dependent child's relatives have the right to lodge a petition with juvenile court to receive visitation if the child is judged to be a dependent, the parental rights were terminated, the child is in the custody of a supervising agency of the state, a public agency or some other department and the child wasn't adopted or has been permanently situated in a new home. The entity that has custody of the child will be given prior notice for a proceeding of this nature. If the child is in foster care, has another caretaker or a guardian, they will also be notified.

The visitation may be allowed if there is a finding that the initial criteria are met, if there is no danger to the child and it is in the best interests of the child for the visit to take place. The "best interests" are judged on the basis of the relationship the child has with the relatives, the status of the relationship, if there were criminal offenses and the relative had abused the child, if there is a danger to the child, and if the child wants to see the relative or not. Depending on the well-being of the child, the decision of visitation can be altered at any juncture. If the child is adopted or is in the process of being adopted, then the visitation will terminate.

A "relative" is defined as a blood relative including those that are half-blood. It includes step-parents and step-siblings, spouses even if the marriage has ended, and extended family members. Family law, custody and visitation can be complex and those who believe they have a right to visit with a minor and the desire to do so can file a case. For assistance in doing so, a legal professional experienced in family law can help.

Source: apps.leg.wa.gov, "Petition for visitation - Relatives of dependent children," accessed on Mar. 31, 2015

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