Practical Guide to Grandparent Rights for Visitation in Washington


Wonderful grandparents can make an enormous impact in the lives of their grandchildren. Arguably, it is in the child’s best interest to have visitations with their grandparents, and the grandparents have an interest in maintaining their relationship with their grandchildren. The Washington Legislature believed this to be the case as well, and enacted a set of laws that created a process whereby a non-parent could petition the Washington Court for visitation.

These laws were overturned by the Supreme Court, finding that while grandparents have an interest and these visits may be in the best interest of the child, parents have a fundamental right to parent their child. Because of the higher level of parental right, the parent’s decision trumps even the best interest of the child in seeing their grandparent. What this means is that the court may have a difficult time enforcing visitations by grandparents. Often grandparents seek visitation where their child’s ex-spouse or partner has become the primary custodial parent, such that they cannot establish visits under their child’s visitation schedule.

For a grandparent seeking more than visitation, they may be able to establish rights over the child in Washington through a custody action. By speaking with a qualified family law attorney, they will be able to help you with the child custody process for gaining third-party custody on a temporary or permanent basis. A third-party custody action is an action with the court where a party, other than the custodial parents seeks to establish custody of the child; this is often a grandparent, aunt, uncle or friend who has taken on the role of parenting the child to the extent that they have become a “de facto” parent. Generally, Washington Courts require you to show that a parent is unfit or that placement with an otherwise fit parent would detrimentally affect the child’s growth and development. The standard can be very high, which is why it is so important to review your potential child custody rights with an experienced family law attorney.

Because we focus solely on family law, we understand the dynamics of child custody in Washington and can help guide you through the process. Please contact Elise Buie Family Law Group, PLLC for a consultation regarding your child custody and visitation issues. 


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

If you and your partner reside in Washington state and are unmarried, you each might qualify for the legal protections availed to you by law by classifying your relationship as a committed intimate relationship.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your family is to build an estate plan while you are alive and well. Estate planning allows you to formally communicate your wishes so they will not be up for interpretation by…

A co-executor can help facilitate the distribution of assets, minimize conflicts, and provide much-needed support to grieving families.

The law makes it easy for people to get out of bad marriages. Washington, like most states, acknowledges no-fault divorce. This means that if you want a court to dissolve your marriage, all you have to do is file for…

Washington state’s laws on non-marital relationships, including committed intimate relationships (CIRs), can be convoluted, especially in the absence of a cohabitation agreement. Given the ambiguity that exists for unmarried partners in Washington state, thinking about the future and what it could look like is more important than ever. This is especially true in terms of aging, incapacity, and death. Fortunately, you can address each of these issues in a comprehensive estate plan.

Prenups and postnups can strengthen a marriage, given how they require relationship partners to put their cards on the table for each other to see, offering transparency and peace of mind. Despite their similarities, there are a few significant differences between the two.

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.