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WashingtonLawHelp.orgWashington LawHelp

Change a Nonparent Custody Order to Get Your Children Back

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded

Read this if you are a parent who lost custody of your child in a Nonparent Custody case filed in Washington State before July 1, 2019. #3151EN



Please Note:

This area of the law is brand new and still developing. The county you need to file in may have its own practice. Try to talk with a local lawyer who knows family law before filing anything with the court.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Should I read this? +

You should read this if you are a parent who lost custody of your child in a Non-Parent Custody case filed in Washington State before July 1, 2019. 

Who should not read this? +

This does not apply to you if

  • The order giving a non-parent custody is only a temporary order, not a final order
  • you lost custody in a dependency case
  • you lost custody to the other parent
  • a court has terminated your parental rights


What will I learn? +

Why it may now be easier to do this, what courts will be looking for now, and how to ask the court that issued the Non-Parent Custody Order to change that order and give the child back to you.

What has changed? +

Before July 1, 2019, you had limited options for getting your child back from a nonparent who had gotten a final custody order. You had to be able to prove to the court that there was a change in the child’s or nonparent’s situation. You also had to prove that giving the child back to you would be in the child’s best interests. The court would not look at whether your own situation had changed.

On July 1, 2019, the Washington Court of Appeals in In Re Custody of S.M. and A.M. found that standard to be unconstitutional. The Court held that a parent should have a chance to show a change in your own situation. It also held that you no longer have to prove that it is in the child’s best interest to be returned to you.

*You will also have to show that it will not harm the child’s growth and development to be returned to your custody.



I heard that nonparent custody changed to guardianship this year. Does that mean the nonparent custody order is no longer any good and I can just get my kids back? +

Not quite. That Nonparent Custody Order is still good. You will still need to file something in court to get your kids back. The next section explains.

I lost custody to my child’s grandmother last year. I was in a bad place then. My situation is much better now. +

You can file a Petition to Terminate or Change Minor Guardianship or Non-Parent Custody Order case to ask the court to return custody of your child to you. You can give the court evidence and declarations that prove the changes in your situation.

You can now use our Instructions for Filing to End a Guardianship or Nonparent Custody Order to Get Your Children Back packet. Get it at WashingtonLawHelp.org.  

Get Legal Help +

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

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Last Review and Update: Oct 07, 2021