The Difficult Case of Non-Parental Visitation

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The Difficult Case of Non-Parental Visitation
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 2/17/2020

In many circumstances, parents may not be best suited to have custody or full custody of their own child. In other circumstances, non-parental figures – grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. – may have rights to visitation despite parental objections. However, under Washington law, these circumstances are unfortunately rare. Washington has specific law dealing with situations involving requests for non-parental visitation.

BLOGPOST_NonParentalVisitation02172020.JPGRCW Chapter 26.11 discusses petitions for relative visitation and the requirements for courts to grant relief to non-parents. Specifically, RCW 26.11.020 provides that a relative is entitled to visitation even if not a parent if specific circumstances are met. The individual must (1) have an ongoing and substantial relationship with the child, (2) be a relative of the child, and (3) prove that the child is likely to suffer harm or a substantial risk of harm if visitation is denied. It is this third requirement that proves to be the trickiest in cases of non-parental visitation.

Alternatively, in lieu of substantial harm, the person must have established an ongoing relationship with the child and sustained a relationship of interaction, companionship, and mutuality of interest with the child without expectation of financial compensation with substantial continuity for at least two years.

Under RCW 26.11.040, the court will consider several factors to make this determination. However, there is always a presumption that a fit parent’s decision is in the best interests of the child. In other words, unless the parent is unfit – for whatever reason – the courts will typically follow whatever the parent wants. Some factors the court will consider include:

  • The love, affection, and strength of the current relationship between the child and the petitioner and how the relationship is beneficial to the child;
  • The length and quality of the prior relationship between the child and the petitioner before the respondent denied visitation, including the role performed by the petitioner and the emotional ties that existed between the child and the petitioner;
  • The relationship between the petitioner and the respondent;
  • The love, affection, and strength of the current relationship between the child and the respondent;
  • The nature and reason for the respondent's objection to granting the petitioner visitation;
  • The effect that granting visitation will have on the relationship between the child and the respondent;
  • The residential time-sharing arrangements between the parties having residential time with the child;
  • The good faith of the petitioner and respondent;
  • Any history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect by the petitioner, or any history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect by a person residing with the petitioner if visitation would involve contact between the child and the person with such history;
  • The child's reasonable preference, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express a preference;
  • Any other factor relevant to the child's best interest; and
  • The fact that the respondent has not lost his or her parental rights by being adjudicated as an unfit parent.

If you’re interested in obtaining visitation for a child that isn’t your own, call the experienced litigators at Magnuson Lowell PS. Our qualified attorneys offer complimentary telephone consultations to answer general questions and provide basic insight into your situation. Call Magnuson Lowell PS today at (425)885-7500 for a free case evaluation.

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Traveling with Children During and After a Divorce
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 2/10/2020

BLOGPOST_TravelingWithChildren02102020.JPGHaving an active lifestyle with your children after a divorce is an important step to creating a new life for your family after a difficult time. Whether you’re traveling for vacation or because little Timmy or Tina has a sports tournament, it’s important to know your rights and responsibilities after a divorce in Washington. Often, the most important step in this process is communication. If your ex-partner has legal custody rights to your child, starting a dialogue early on about travel options is important to keep everyone on the same page and to ensure there are no improper legal boundaries crossed.

Whenever you have children under eighteen years-old during a divorce, you and your spouse will be required to draft a parenting plan. This document is an agreement on many of the basics of child-rearing from decision-making to holiday visitation schedules. Many parenting plans will also have clauses dealing with travel especially if travel is anticipated. The first step towards proper travel plans after a divorce is to check the parenting plan. Failing to follow the parenting plan may lead to court involvement and sanctions.

International travel is a more complicated process. Federal law typically requires that both parents consent to the issuance of a passport in the United States for children under 16-years old. This step can be accomplished by appearing in person with your ex-spouse or by providing a notarized letter providing consent. Additional information about passports for children can be found here:
Once you have the passport, it’s important to bring copies of additional documentation with you to ensure there are no hiccups along the way. Copies of a parental consent to travel, divorce decree, parenting plan, and birth certificate should be carried to protect you and your kids while abroad.

If you believe your ex-spouse is travelling with your child internationally without your consent – or if you fear that your ex-spouse may abduct your child out of the country – you can register the child with the Department of State’s Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program, which is a safeguard against deceptive passport practices involving children. Alerting the authorities when there are additional considerations can help keep your children safe and in the country.

If you have additional questions about travelling with your children during or after a divorce, you should always contact a qualified family law attorney. The experienced litigators at Magnuson Lowell PS offer a complimentary telephone consultation to answer general family law questions and can provide you basic background to ensure you understand your rights and responsibilities. Call Magnuson Lowell PS today at (425)885-7500 for a free consultation.

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Common Mistakes to Avoid in a Divorce
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 2/3/2020

BLOGPOST_CommonMistakesDivorce02032020.JPGEnding your marriage can be a difficult decision and an emotional process. Whenever emotions run high, partners begin to fall prey to common mistakes that can forever alter relationships with your spouse and sometimes – more importantly – with your children. Washington law tries to find balance in divorce cases, first attempting to find solutions that are in the best interests of the children and then taking steps to balance the parties’ positions based upon many different factors. There are some common mistakes, which can lead to expensive and long drawn out litigation in divorce cases.

Focusing on the Short-Term:
A divorce lawsuit can last anywhere from 90-days to more than a year. During this timeframe, you will likely get sidetracked concentrating on what’s important to you at one moment rather than the long-term effects of your decisions. Especially when considering children and property, it can be easy to forget about next year (or the next five years) when you and your spouse are fighting about an issue that might only be relevant for a few days. Try to take a step back (and hopefully your partner does, also) to think about what’s truly important in your divorce to cut back on cost and litigation.

Involving the Children:
Children are typically smarter than we give them credit for. Especially when teens are involved, they can sense manipulation even if they don’t understand all the facts or background. Involving your children in fights, disparaging your partners to your kids, or ignoring the elephant in the room are all poor ways of handling a divorce. Kids need to know what’s going on. Be cautious on how you involve your children based on their age. A teen might need to know more than a six-year old. However, no child should be involved in decision-making or fights between the parents. It leads to bad outcomes in the family, and the Court may sanction poor parenting behavior.

Choose your battles:
Especially when children are involved, divorce lawsuits are inherently emotional. It’s important to choose your battles wisely, or each decision will end in a fight that could cost thousands of dollars. Stay grounded and think positively even when things might not look like they’re going your way. Some arguments may be worth bringing all the way to trial. Most of them, however, should be negotiated both for your sanity and a huge savings on legal fees.

Relying on Inaccurate Information:
Everyone has an opinion, but that doesn’t mean your best friend who was divorced 5-years ago knows what’s best for your situation. Similarly, anyone can post on the Internet. Be careful and cautious when reviewing opinions on the Internet and always consider the source of the information before relying on it substantively.

Not Consulting an Attorney:
The experienced lawyers at Magnuson Lowell PS offer complimentary telephone consultations to answer general inquiries and provide immediate assistance in family law matters. Consulting with a divorce attorney can provide reassurances about your options and provide perspective when situations seem most dire. Contact Magnuson Lowell PS today by calling (425)885-7500 for a free case evaluation.

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