Spending time with your children, niece, nephew, or other relative is incredibly important to building a familial connection and providing for the young children in your family. In some cases, establishing visitation rights requires court intervention. Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S. can help you understand how to get visitation rights.
Who Can Get Visitation Rights in Washington?
Washington law gives parents, and in some cases, non-parents, the right to have visitation or family time with children. The people who may ask the court for permission to have family time include the following:
- Parents (biological and adoptive),
- Grandparents (biological and adoptive),
- Blood relatives, and
- Spouses of blood relatives.
Other categories of family members could also have the right to petition the court for visitation time. For a court to award family time to a non-parent, the non-parent must prove the following:
- They have an “ongoing and substantial relationship” with the child,
- They are related to the child, and
- The child is “likely to suffer harm or a substantial risk of harm” if the court does not award visitation.
For an ongoing and substantial relationship to exist, it must be an authentic relationship that has lasted continuously for at least two years. If the child is under two years old, the person requesting visitation rights must show that they have been caring for the child continuously for at least half the child’s life.
How to Get Visitation Rights in Washington
The process for getting visitation rights depends on the circumstances. For example, if you are divorcing the child’s parent, you need to establish visitation rights as part of the dissolution proceedings. If you are the child’s parent and are not married to the other parent, you can get visitation rights by filing a parentage action. As discussed above, you may also obtain visitation rights if you are a non-parent and meet specific criteria.
If You Are Divorcing or Have Divorced the Child’s Parent
During a divorce, you and the other parent determine an appropriate parenting plan. A parenting plan is a document that describes how the parents will care for and provide for the children once the divorce is final. It covers important details such as the following:
- The visitation schedule;
- Who has physical or legal custody of the children;
- Who drives the children to school;
- Who pays child support, and how much they need to pay;
- How drop-offs and pick-ups are to occur;
- Who covers the cost of the children’s medical care; and
- Whether there are any physical or psychological safety concerns regarding the children.
You and the other parent typically negotiate the parenting agreement’s terms and can revise the document as needed to accommodate life changes.
You can modify the parenting agreement by filing a petition with the appropriate court to request changes. If both parents agree to the changes, you should let the court know when you file the document. This can help accelerate the process of getting the changes approved. The judge may require you and the other parent to go to court to discuss the proposed modifications. At the hearing, the judge decides if they believe the changes are in the child’s best interests.
If You Are the Child’s Parent and Are Not Married to the Other Parent
If you are the child’s parent and are not married to the child’s other parent, you can establish visitation rights by filing a parentage action. For this action, you must first show that you and the other parent are the child’s biological parents. You can get a DNA test or submit further proof, such as an official copy of the child’s birth certificate with your name on it. In some circumstances, the court does not require additional evidence, but this is not always the case.
Once the court determines the parentage of the children, you can file a petition to establish a parenting plan. Depending on the circumstances, you might have to wait at least 60 days before you can file the petition. A family law attorney can help you understand the appropriate timing for filing this document.
This type of parenting plan is much like parenting plans created during divorce proceedings. In it, both parents will try to work together to agree on who will have physical and legal custody of the children and the appropriate visitation schedule. And just like with divorcing parents, if you cannot agree on terms, the judge will decide for you. And if circumstances significantly change over the years, you can ask to modify the parenting plan.
If You Are a Non-Parent of the Child
As discussed above, Washington law allows a child’s relatives to petition the court for visitation rights in limited circumstances. In most cases, you can only get visitation rights if you can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the child is suffering harm or severe risk of harm with the current caregiver. Alternatively, you can show that visitation rights are required to protect a substantial and ongoing relationship with the child that will be damaged without the court’s intervention.
A family law attorney can help you gather the appropriate evidence to meet your burden of proof under Washington law.
How Long Does It Take to Get Visitation Rights?
The time it takes to get visitation rights can vary from case to case. Variables that impact the time frame include things like the court’s schedule, the urgency of the situation, whether a parent objects to your requested visitation rights, and a host of other factors.
How Much Does It Cost to Get Visitation Rights?
The cost of going through the process of getting visitation rights depends on many factors. And low-cost options are not always the best for your situation. For example, you can tackle the legal paperwork to get visitation rights on your own, but you may miss important details that adversely impact the outcome.
You can hire an attorney to help you successfully navigate the legal process of getting visitation rights. Talk with potential attorneys to find someone who is a good professional and financial fit.
Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S.: We Can Help You Get Visitation Rights in Washington
Our team understands that family law issues like getting visitation rights can be emotionally charged and frustrating. It can be challenging to go through the legal process to get permission to spend time with a child you love. We are here to help you through the process.
Chelsea Miller takes a holistic approach to family law cases, ensuring she understands the entire picture, not just one snapshot. She finds that this helps her create more effective and appropriate recommendations for her clients.
If you have questions about how to get visitation rights in Washington, call our office or contact us online today to schedule a consultation.