powered by probono.net

To leave this site now, use the X button.
If you are in danger, please use a safer computer.
In an emergency, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (TTY 1-800-787-3224). Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear.

Text size: A A A

WashingtonLawHelp.orgWashington LawHelp

Non-Parent Custody is Changing to Minor Guardianship

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded

Washington state's non-parent custody law is ending in 2021 and a new court procedure will be taking its place. Read a brief overview here.



Should I read this?

Yes, if

  • You are involved in a non-parent custody case filed in a court in the state of Washington and the case is not yet final.

  • You were involved in a non-parent custody case in a court in the state of Washington. The court issued final orders in your case.

  • You are thinking about filing such a case in a superior court in the state of Washington.


What will I learn from reading this?

You will learn how Washington’s non-parent custody law is ending, and a new law is replacing it.

You will learn a little about the differences between the old and new laws.

You will learn what this might mean in 2021 for your non-parent custody case.

*We will also tell you where you can get legal help.


So what’s new?

Washington passed a new law that starts on January 1, 2021. This new law creates a different court process for authorizing someone to take care of a child who is not their own. Instead of filing for non-parent custody, you will file for guardianship of a minor (child under age 18).


Will minor guardianship be different from non-parent custody?

Yes. Here are just a few important differences.

  • A parent who objects to someone else taking guardianship over their child may get a lawyer appointed at public expense if they cannot afford one.

  •  The person who files for minor guardianship must notify more people about the case than if they were filing for non-parent custody.

  • Children may have more rights in a minor guardianship case than they do in a non-parent custody case.

  • The procedure for getting court orders right away is different.

  • You can file a minor guardianship case suggesting that someone else take care of the child.

*Check back here for updates on the new minor guardianship law.


What is the same under guardianship of a minor as under non-parent custody?

Someone who gets minor guardianship gets physical custody of the child (the child lives with them most of the time) the same as if the court awarded them non-parent custody.


How will this affect existing non-parent custody cases?

It depends.  

In cases where the court has already entered final orders, nothing will happen. Those final orders are still good. The person to whom the court awarded custody of the child still has legal custody.

*If you are a parent who lost a non-parent custody case, read Change a Nonparent Custody Order to Get Your Children Back.


My non-parent custody case isn’t yet final. What will happen to the case in 2021?

It is not clear yet. It might depend on which county court your case is filed in.

If you are the person who filed the case, you should try to finalize it before the end of the year. Use our Finalize a Non-Parent Custody Case packet.

If you are the parent, you can file a motion to dismiss the non-parent custody case in 2021.

*This information is new and changing. Try to talk to a lawyer who has family law experience in the court where your case is filed. They may know more about what the court plans to do with non-parent custody cases like yours in 2021.


I can’t finalize the case by the end of the year.

Some courts might dismiss your non-parent custody case in 2021. If that happens, you will have to file a new, minor guardianship case. There might be a period between the dismissal of one case and filing of the other where there is no court order about who has the child.

However, other courts might let you convert (change) the case to a minor guardianship. Then you would not have to worry about there being a period with no court orders. Try to talk to a lawyer who has family law experience in the court where your case is filed.

If you are the parent in this situation, you can file a motion to dismiss the non-parent custody case in 2021.


We have temporary orders in our non-parent custody case. Will those orders still be good in 2021?

Courts are supposed to honor these temporary orders even after the non-parent custody law ends. We cannot guarantee that your court will in fact do so. Try to talk to a lawyer who has family law experience in the court where your case is filed.


Get Legal Help

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



Last Review and Update: Nov 12, 2020