What is a de facto parent?

In the last ten years, Washington State courts have recognized something called a “de facto” parent – A person who is not biologically tied to the child and a person who has not legally adopted the child, but someone who has been acting as a parent for much of the child’s life.

In 2005, a child custody battle between a lesbian couple caused the Washington Supreme Court to rule in favor of a de facto parent. It argued that since the non-biological parent raised the child from birth and acted in a parent in every way, she should have the rights of a parent during the child custody case.

However, it is important to understand that winning child custody rights and child visitation by claiming to be a de facto parent is difficult to do. Under the definition, a de facto parent must:

  • Have had the consent of the natural parent to act in a parent-like role.
  • Live with the child in the same home.
  • Have assumed many or all of the obligations of parenthood without financial compensation.
  • Have formed a permanent and loving bond with the child in question.

Since the 2005 de facto parent case, several non-biological parents have successfully argued for child custody. However, it is difficult to meet the above requirements—especially for stepparents and grandparents. It is also difficult to be named a de facto parents if the other biological parent are still living and wish to have child custody and visitation rights.

Do you have a question about de facto parents or Washington child custody law? Contact the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today.

Molly B. Kenny
Founder and Principal Divorce Attorney
Molly B. Kenny's Bellevue family law office is conveniently located on Lake Bellevue Drive, making it easily accessible to those in the greater Seattle area. Our divorce and child custody lawyers help men and women get the information, guidance, and compassionate representation they need.
Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny