WashingtonChild Visitation Laws
Washington Child Custody Guide :: Table of Contents
What is child visitation?In the context of a child custody case, visitation is defined as the rights for a non-custodial parent to see their child, or as temporary custody that's been granted for a period of time to an otherwise non-custodial parent or relative.
In general, courts in Washington assume that it is beneficial for both biological parents of a child to have shared custody or visitation, unless it is shown to be against the child's best interests. A biological parent who is denied custody may be awarded visitation rights to provide for a relationship between the parent and child.
Visitation by grandparents, family members, or other third-parties is less clear cut in Washington, and nationwide. While there are state guidelines regarding third-party visitation in certain situations, these laws are frequently challenged.
Above all else, courts in Washington strive to make custody and visitation decisions that are "in the best interests of the child". The court handling each individual visitation case has significant flexibility in determining what arrangement is in the child's best interests. You can read about Washington's visitation guildelines on this page.
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How are Visitation Rights Requested?Washington law states that a biological parent of a minor child may request visitation rights as part of an open divorce, parentage or custody case or may file a petition for visitation in none of these circumstances apply.
The court will decide a request for visitation based on whether granting a parent visitation would be in the "best interests of the child."
What is considered in a child's "best interests" is outlined under the custody and visitation statute which indicate the following factors are relevant to this type of decision:
- The parent's’ and child’s wishes as to custody
- The interaction and relationship between the child and both parents, any siblings, and any other person who significantly affects the child's best interests
- The child's adjustment to his or her home, school and community
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
Grandparent visitation rights may be granted, however is not required. Visitation rights may be granted if there is a relationship between the grandparent and grandchild or if one of the child's parents is deceased. Any award of grandparent visitation must be in the best interests of the child.
In the state of Washington, there are a number of laws regarding child visitation regarding visitation for third-parties other than the biological parents of the child. While state laws regarding third-party visitation have been frequently been challenged in courts, they are a good indication of Washington's positions regarding non-parental visitation rights.
Visitation Rights Of Grandparents In Washington:
Washington has special statutes regarding the child visitiation rights of grandparents under different circumstances. State law does not provide for general visitation rights of grandparents, but visitation rights may be presumed under certain parental situations.
Regardless of state presumptions regarding grandparent's visitation rights under specific circumstances, a Washington court may allow or prevent visitation rights in any situation based on the best interests of the child.
Visitation Rights Of Other Parties In Washington:
Are step-parents granted visitation rights in the state of Washington?
Generally it is an uphill battle for step-parents seeking visitation rights for a step-child, especially if the biological parents of the child are alive and are opposed to the visitation.
The state of Washington does not have any laws that grant child visitation rights to step-parents, which may make applying for visitation significantly harder. In all cases, third-party visitation rights are more likely to be granted by the court if they are deemed to be in the best interests of the child.
Can other interested parties or relatives be granted visitation rights to a child in Washington?
Under state of Washington law, it is not generally possible for any other interested party other than those specified to be granted child visitation rights. In rare cases this may be overruled by the court.
Can parents be granted visitation rights after termination of parental rights or adoption in Washington?
In the state of Washington it may not be possible to be granted visitation rights after losing parental rights or giving up a child for adoption. This is the case with both biological parents and previous guardians.