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Legal Information: Washington


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December 3, 2020

Can a non-parent file for custody of a child?

In Washington state, non-parents cannot file for “custody” but they can file for guardianship. A non-parent can file for guardianship of a minor child only if:

  1. each parent has consented to the guardianship;
  2. all parental rights have been terminated; or
  3. there is clear evidence that neither parent of the child is willing to exercise parenting functions.1

“Parenting functions” include:

  1. maintaining a loving, stable, consistent, and nurturing relationship with the child;
  2. attending to the daily needs of the child, such as feeding, clothing, physical care and grooming, supervision, health care, and day care;
  3. doing other activities that are appropriate to the developmental level of the child and that are within the social and economic circumstances of the particular family;
  4. providing an adequate education for the child, including remedial or other education that the child needs;
  5. helping the child in developing and maintaining appropriate interpersonal relationships;
  6. exercising appropriate judgment regarding the child’s welfare, consistent with the child’s developmental level and the family’s social and economic circumstances; and
  7. providing for the financial support of the child.2

The Washington Courts website has links to court forms that are needed to file a guardianship case. WashingtonLawHelp.org has additional information about non-parental guardianship but please note that WomensLaw.org is not affiliated with WashingtonLawHelp.org and cannot vouch for the information contained on that site.

For more information, you may want to talk to a lawyer. See our WA Finding A Lawyer page for legal referrals.

1 R.C.W. § 11.130.185(2)
2 R.C.W. § 26.09.004(2)