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Important facts about grandparents' rights and visitation

In Spokane and across the state of Washington, there are often issues related to custody and visitation of children that might go beyond a normal parent-child relationship. In some instances, there is a grandparent who is trying to establish grandparents' rights to be able to see a child when they are being prevented from doing so. In situations such as this, it's imperative to understand the state laws before moving forward with a case.

In the event that someone other than the child's parent wishes to receive visitation rights, a petition may be filed. There can also be an intervention in the pending dissolution of a marriage, a legal separation or if a parenting plan is in the process of being modified. The filing is required to be made in the specific county where the child lives. For the attempt to receive visitation, there must be a demonstration made that there is a relationship between the person petitioning and the child. If this is not proven, the case can be dismissed. With the dismissal, the petitioner will be required to pay for the legal costs incurred by the parents or whomever is the custodial guardian of the child.

If there is evidence presented that there is a significant relationship between the petitioner and the child, the court will be able to order visitation rights if it is in the best interests of the child. When it is a grandparent who is seeking visitation, the court will presume that it is a reasonable decision to allow visitation if it is proven the grandparent and child have a significant relationship. If evidence to the contrary is presented or the child will be in danger or can potentially be harmed by this visitation, it can be refused. In the event that there is hostility between the parent or custodian and a grandparent, then mediation could be ordered.

Factors considered are: the relationship between the participants, the reason for the objection to visitation, what effect granting visitation will have on all involved, what the residential situation and visitation agreement is between the parents and if there is a criminal history.

Source: app.leg.wa.gov, "Visitation rights - Person other than parent - Grandparents' visitation rights," accessed on Nov. 17, 2014

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