Family dynamics can be incredibly complicated, especially when someone is struggling with substance abuse, mental health issues and other personal challenges. Relationships can become very strained, and legal interventions may become necessary if a child’s welfare is at stake.
Under these circumstances, someone may feel inclined to explore the options for minor guardianship, formerly called third-party or nonparental child custody in Washington. Here is what you need to know if you are concerned about a child.
Who might seek guardianship?
Any party interested in the welfare of a child could file a petition for minor guardianship; children could also file a petition if they are 14 or older. You could file a petition for guardianship for yourself or to have someone else appointed as a guardian.
There are two types of minor guardianship to understand:
- Minor guardianship is generally a long-term solution. It takes about 60 days to finalize these arrangements.
- Emergency minor guardianships are for situations where someone needs guardianship rights away. These are granted more quickly but are only in place for 60 days.
In either case, these petitions become necessary if you are worried about a child’s parents being unable or unwilling to perform parental functions.
Legal details to consider
Because a lot can be at stake in these cases, the legal components of minor guardianship are essential to understand. First, know that parents now have the right to have an attorney throughout these proceedings, even if the courts need to appoint one. This is a change from previous laws.
Another change from previous laws is that parents can more easily get a review of guardianships. Doing so can shorten the time that a parent may not have custody.
Further, older children now have the right to know what is going on and to make their own proposals for who they want (or do not want) as their guardian.
Navigating guardianship matters
Whether you are petitioning for minor guardianship for yourself or someone else, this can be a stressful, emotional process to navigate. Understanding how the process works and knowing that an attorney can help you get through the legal system can make things easier.