3rd Party Custody matters in Washinton are governed by both statutory and case law, and can be complex to navigate. The definitions below may be helpful to those unfamiliar with thie area of law.
The Court also provides the following updated checklist to assist unrepresented individuals process their case through the courts.
Adequate Cause Motion: A document you will write with information about why the Superior Court judge should let you bring a case asking for you, a non-parent, to have custody of a child or children. You will talk to the judge about your motion at an Adequate Cause Hearing. If the judge agrees your case should keep going, s/he will sign an Adequate Cause Order.
Notice: You give the parents notice by filling out a document called a Notice of Hearing. This form lets the clerk know to schedule a hearing and lets the parents know there will be a court (another name for hearing) and what kind of hearing and when and where it will be.
Served: A person has been served when you give that person court papers in a certain way. Usually you start a lawsuit by hand delivering the papers to the people that must get them and after that, you usually can mail the papers to them
Others With Rights: Usually it’s just the parents who have rights and need to be served, but sometimes other people like a guardian have rights and will need to be served.
Indian Child: If any child in the case is or might be an Indian Child, there is a complicated law called the Indian Child Welfare Act. If there is an Indian child, you will probably need a lawyer to help you out.
Declaration: A declaration is a written statement made to the court with a promise you are telling the truth. If either of the parents are in the military, they might write a declaration saying it is ok for the judge to make a decision even though they can’t go to court to be part of the hearing.
Party: Party means a person or an organization that is listed on the top of the court papers such as you and the parents. Sometimes the State of Washington and the Guardian Ad Litem are also a party in the lawsuit.
GAL: A GAL or Guardian Ad Litem is a person the court asks to look into your concerns and then let the judge know what is best for the children. The judge will sign a paper called a GAL Order that lets everyone know a GAL will be talking to people to understand what is going on.
CPS Authorization/Investigation Order: The judge will sign a paper called “Order to DSHS to Release CPS Information.” This paper makes DSHS report about any CPS cases brought against you or any adult that lives with you. If there is a CPS case in Juvenile Court about the child, the Juvenile Court will need to give permission and sign an Investigation Order that lets you keep bringing your case in Superior Court.
WSP Criminal Background: The Washington State Patrol will need to make a report about you and any other adults that live with you.
Review of GAL Report Hearing: At the first court hearing the judge will review the GAL report.
Final Custody Orders: When you are done with your court case, the judge will sign final custody orders. Final custody orders will either give you custody or not give you custody.
Please note Superior Court does not give legal advice and the foregoing materials should not be substituted for getting legal advice on your case.