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
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington