State Laws and Legislation

Washington Custody and Visitation Law

Courts typically will not consider a parent’s sexual orientation in custody and visitation determinations unless it is shown to adversely affect or harm the children. There have been no cases dealing with transgender parents. Courts will allow a former same-sex partner (with no legal or biological relationship to the children) to petition for a determination of co-parentage.

Washington courts will allow a former same-sex partner (with no legal or biological relationship to the children) to petition for a determination of co-parentage. However, if a former same-sex partner fails to get a determination of co-parentage, he or she cannot petition for visitation.

The Washington law regarding third party (non-parent) visitation states: “Any person may petition the court for visitation rights at any time including, but not limited to, custody proceedings. The court may order visitation rights for any person when visitation may serve the best interest of the child whether or not there has been any change of circumstances.” This law was struck down by the state Supreme Court in a 2005 case.

In a 2005 case, In re L.B., the state Supreme Court held that the same-sex co-parent, with no legal or biological relationship with the child, could petition to be considered a de facto parent, and therefore a legal co-parent. The court stated that the following four factors will be used in Washington courts to determine whether someone is a de facto parent: (1) the natural or legal parent consented to and fostered the parent-like relationship; (2) the petitioner and the child lived together in the same household; (3) the petitioner assumed obligations of parenthood without expectation of financial compensation; and (4) the petitioner has been in a parental role for a length of time sufficient to have established with the child a bonded, dependent relationship parental in nature.

In a 2001 case, State ex.rel. D.R.M. v. Wood, a same-sex couple separated right before McDonald got pregnant. Wood agreed in writing to support and adopt the child. She stopped making payments when the child was 10 months old. McDonald petitioned the court for child support. The trial court determined that Wood was not a parent of the child and not required to make support payments. The state Supreme Court affirmed.

Citations: WASH. REV. CODE §26.10.100; WASH. REV. CODE § 26.09.240; WASH. REV. CODE § 26.10.160; In Re: L.B., 122 P.3d 161(Wash. 2005); In Re C.A.M.A., 109 P.3d 405 (Wash. 2005); State ex.rel. D.R.M. v. Wood, 34 P.3d 887 (Wash. Ct. App. 2001).In re Wicklund, 932 P.2d 652 (Wash.Ct. App. 1996); In re Cabalquinto, 669 P.2d 886 (Wash. 1983); In re C.A.M.A., 109 P.3d 405 (Wash. 2005).

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Updated: Wed, December 21, 2005 - 12:00:52