Dependency and Incarcerated Parents by Randall Enlow

Someone in handcuffs

Incarcerated parents have an especially difficult time maintaining a meaningful role in their dependency cases for many reasons, including:

·             DSHS often has little to no information on the parent, including their name and basic whereabouts. They often rely on the other parent for that information which for obvious reasons may not be reliable. Even so, prison facilities often make service of the initial dependency petition and documents complicated or impossible.

·             Once a parent is ordered by the court to participate in a service they most often find that their facility does not offer or allow such a service while in custody.

·             Many facilities allow attorneys to contact their clients by phone only if there is a court-ordered hearing. Attorneys thus often face the choice of in-person contact or written letter, which is especially problematic for public defenders who may carry up to 80 cases and have a large number of those clients in facilities in all areas of the state (or sometimes, out of state). Even when an inmate receives mail, there may be significant delays in sending and receiving and they often do not have the money to send a letter back. Filing timely responses for incarcerated parents is nearly always difficult and sometimes impossible.

·             Dependency court maintains a fluid calendar – meaning an 8:30 a.m. hearing may not occur until 11:00 a.m. This is a problem as typically parents must have their DOC counselor present for the call, so they must have the hearing start at a definite time and could miss their hearing entirely if court congestion cannot accommodate a definite time.

These are only a few of the things that make engagement in a dependency case very hard for incarcerated parents. This is especially troublesome given many incarcerated parents are the most viable or only placement option for their children when released. This heightens an attorney’s responsibility to aggressively ensure the voices of their incarcerated clients can be heard.


Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe to one or more of our newsletters, delivering meaningful insight on topics that matter to you and your family.
ebl home subscribe image


Latest Blog Posts

Child support is one of the most contentious issues in divorce cases where parties have minor children. Even though Washington state law uses the same complex mathematical formula to determine the amount of child support for each child, there is…

Family law and estate planning often intersect. This is particularly true when contemplating divorce, remarriage, or blending families.

At some point during your divorce case, friends and family members whose own marriages ended in divorce probably told you that it gets better, and it does. Of course, from your perspective, getting out of a bad marriage might be…

Co-parenting over a long distance when you are a non-residential parent does not have to equate to sacrificing involvement in your children’s lives. But it likely does mean you will have to make tweaks in your communication and parenting style to accommodate the new living arrangement.

If you have a significant amount of money saved, you might be considering giving some of it away while you are still alive via what is known in estate planning jargon as a living inheritance. Depending on your desires, you can give your beneficiaries a portion of or all of the inheritance you intend to give them.

Estate planning is commonly associated with preparing for asset distribution and financial management in the event of the estate plan owner’s incapacitation or death. However, an estate plan can protect more than just people and what they have worked so hard during their lifetimes to build. A carefully crafted Washington state estate plan can also protect pets.

Despite being divorced, you may still be able to collect social security benefits through your ex-spouse. Even if you went through a high-conflict divorce or are not on good terms with your ex-spouse currently, they cannot stop you from collecting these benefits if you are eligible. Likewise, your ex-spouse does not need to permit you to apply for social security benefits or have previously completed an application themselves.

If you live in Washington State and have an estranged family member, are you worried about them contesting your will after you die? Well, don’t worry quite yet. There are a variety of criteria an individual must meet to contest a will in the state of Washington.

Depending on your situation, there might also be measures you can take as you revisit your existing estate plan or create a new one to cause them to think twice about doing so. Here is what you need to know about whether an estranged family member can contest a will in Washington state.

When parents go through a divorce, child custody can be one of the hardest issues to deal with. But increasingly in American households, pets are part of the family, and separating can create similar concerns over who gets the family pet.

As a Seattle entrepreneur, you’ve undoubtedly dedicated countless hours and resources to building a successful business. You’ve dotted all of your I’s and crossed all of your T’s. But have you considered what will happen to your business after you're…