Being a grandparent is an incredible, rewarding time. You have all the joy and love that comes from watching a child mature and develop, but there is less strain than is often found in the typically fraught parent-child relationship. Many grandparents treasure their unique and special bond with their grandchildren.
That makes it all the more tragic when families encounter circumstances that interfere in that relationship. Perhaps you have a falling out with your child, and they don't want to let you stop by to visit your grandchild anymore. Maybe there's been a divorce, and your child completely lost custody. Now, your former son- or daughter-in-law doesn't want you to see the kids.
Not long ago, Washington offered very few protections for grandparents. Even now, there may be a protracted court process waiting for those who want to take advantage of a relatively new law that grants familial visitation rights to relatives other than parents.
New visitation law focuses on extended family relationships
There is a popular saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Parents often depend on an extended support network, including grandparents, aunts and uncles, close friends and other family members to manage all of their parental duties. Everything from financial support to childcare can make a difference for struggling parents trying to support kids and raise them at the same time.
Children can also develop a deep and meaningful bond with relatives other than their parents in their formative years. This is particularly true in circumstances where children live with their grandparents or they provide childcare services. Grandparents can play a very special role for grandchildren, especially those going through something rough at home, like the divorce of their parents.
Thankfully, lawmakers have taken steps to amend the broken policies in Washington by creating a new law that allows family members to seek visitation with minor children so long as they can prove that it is in the best interest of the child involved. SB 5598 got introduced back in 2017 and finally received approval and the governor's signature last year. The same law also protects stepparents and siblings who want visitation.
Taking action under a new law requires a careful approach
Given that lawmakers just passed the bill allowing family members to seek visitation in 2018, there is not a staggering amount of court precedent related to this new law at this time. Those seeking to use this law to help safeguard their relationship with their grandchildren will have to prepare for applications and unexpected issues.
Partnering with an experienced Washington family law attorney can help you navigate the confusing process of seeking visitation as a non-parental family member under Washington state law.