Do Grandparents Have Custody or Visitation Rights in Washington?

Goldberg JonesChild Custody 2 Comments

Families often include much more than just parents and children. Extended families are common and grandparents frequently play large roles in a child’s life. When it comes to custody and visitation, however,  do grandparents have rights in Washington?

Rick Jones, one of our founders, appears on the Danny Bonaduce Show to talk about family law, divorce, and custody. One caller had a question about her rights as a grandparent and whether or not she needed to get permission from both her daughter and son-in-law to take her grandchildren out of Washington.

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She describes her situation below:

Caller: “I need to take my grandchildren down to Florida to visit family. My daughter and I have been estranged for three years due to drugs. I get to see the kids, who are teenagers, through their father. He has given his permission. Do I have to get my daughter’s permission to take them to Florida?”

As so often happens in family law matters, this situation gets complicated fast.

In answering this question, Rick points out a common misconception about the rights grandparents do and don’t have.

While many states have provisions and laws to secure visitation rights for grandparents, Washington does not. As a result, while this grandmother doesn’t need permission from both parents, she does, however, need to rely on the son-in-law’s allocated custody time.

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Rick elaborates below:

Rick: “In most states, you are right, but not in Washington. Unfortunately, when it comes to grandparents’ rights, the state of the law in Washington is fairly tough. Grandparents’ rights are nearly non-existent. You will only see grandparents get involved when a parent is incapable of filling the parent role. In those instances, you may see a grandparent step in as a third-party custodian.

“For now, you are going to need to rely upon the kindness of your daughter or your prior son-in-law to allocate some of their custody time to you. It won’t be considered kidnapping because you are there under your son-in-law’s custodial time by his permission. The best thing for you to do is to continue to get a parent’s permission to spend time with your grandchildren.”

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Comments 2

  1. Thank you for this opportunity, and although you may not be able to help me directly, I would greatly appreciate any advice or referrals. I have read the information on your website, that was included in search results for topic “grandparent’s right in WA State” and I understand that there are no “family” rights of visitation or rights to normal family interaction, no “grandparents rights” to see one’s grandchild, but I have a couple of questions, and I’ll try to be as succinct as I can.
    1. Would it matter the reason the child is being denied the opportunity to interact with grandparent/family?
    • I’m a paternal great grandmother but this applies my daughter, granddaughter and sometimes my grandson as well to my understanding!
    • Currently my 6 yrs. old great grandson is occasionally denied visitation with me, as well as his paternal grandmother and is denied all the time to have phone conversations with his paternal great aunt who live out of state.
    • The reason for the denials as stated by the child’s mother is after we say something
    “I don’t like” “its punishment” But the comments/statement are usually things that are relative to his well-being and or safely. One example: my daughter suggested that the mother she might want to transfer a boiling pot (a tall pasta pot) of water from the front burner to the back burner. Now this is probably safety 101, for some but it was mentioned particularly because my great grandson kept running over to the stove, where he mother was standing and my great grandson as already been burned before!
    2. If there are No “grandparents” rights to visitation, then why legally does her mother, brother and sister get to see/and interact with him?
    • She constantly makes that statement like a reminder “that we have no rights” as it relates to my daughter (paternal grandmother) and me and my granddaughter
    • It’s like she has a vendetta which is continuous and states that her mother doesn’t say
    anything about her parenting, which No One has.
    • If we call my great grandson, she won’t answer her phone, so we bought a phone for him
    and now she won’t let him/ or she won’t answer that one either.
    • The my grandson and my great grandsons mother are not married, they just spit households last August, to my knowledge do not have a parenting plan or any court ordered legal agreement so I don’t know if that makes a difference, but they co-parent, and his father is constantly talking with her about allowing the fair and healthy interaction! If and when you can speak with my great grandson on the phone it’s heart breaking to hear him say how he misses us, and at one time his mom said herself it wasn’t right to do this! is there anything that can be done my grandson? by my family? Thank You

    1. Post

      Hi Rietta,

      Thanks for reaching out. That’s a complicated situation. I passed your contact information on to our managing attorney, Ken Alan. He will reach out to you with some options in your case.

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