Gaining Custody of Your Grandchild in Washington State

As a grandparent, you want the best for your grandchild. When your son or daughter struggles to care for your grandchild, you feel an obligation to step in.

Gaining custody of your grandchild is no easy task and involves a series of legal steps. We detail more about this process below.

Reasons to Gain Custody of Your Grandchild

First, make sure you have a valid reason to seek custody. Even though you’re a close relative, the courts still prefer to grant custody to the child’s parents.

It’s reasonable to seek custody if your grandchild’s parents:

  • Are abusive
  • Are mentally ill
  • Are addicted to drugs or alcohol
  • Are in jail
  • Have abandoned their child
  • Prefer to have you raise their child

When the court terminates one parent’s parental rights, it prefers to keep the other parent as the sole legal guardian. However, if both parents are incapable of caring for the child, the court must appoint someone else as guardian. It prefers to appoint close relatives, such as grandparents, before turning to strangers. In fact, grandparents are usually the court’s first choice.

Types of Custody Arrangements for Grandparents

There are several types of custody arrangements available to grandparents.

Temporary Custody

If the child’s parents agree for you to temporarily take care of their child, you could be granted temporary custody.

However, immediate temporary custody is where the court believes that the child will be in danger if he or she stays with the parents. The court can place the child in your care until the temporary custody hearing. At the temporary custody hearing, the court can appoint you as temporary guardian of the child until the case concludes.

Yet another option for temporary custody is known as kinship foster care. It is either arranged privately between you and the parents or arranged by a child welfare agency. Kinship foster care means you don’t have legal custody-so you cannot make any major decisions about your grandchild’s care without state approval. However, you are entitled to the same financial help other foster parents receive.

Legal Custody

Custody gives you all parental rights, such as the ability to make medical decisions for your grandchild. In order for you to gain custody of your grandchild, an investigation will occur to determine your capability. They may perform a criminal background check or visit your home and prepare a home study report. The court must terminate the parents’ parental rights before granting you legal permanent custody.



If there’s no possibility your grandchild’s parents will be able to care for your grandchild again, you can seek legal adoption. You’ll have permanent responsibility for your grandchild’s care, and the child’s parents relinquish all legal parenting rights. You must file an adoption application with the court. If your grandchild is 12 or older, he or she must agree to the adoption.

How a Lawyer Helps

The process of gaining custody is time-intensive and complex, so you’ll greatly benefit from a lawyer’s advice and guidance. A lawyer can investigate your situation and determine the best course of action. He or she can act as your advocate to help you obtain an ideal outcome.

If you hope to gain custody of your grandchild, call Madison Law Firm for a consultation.

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