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OVERVIEW OF MINOR GUARDIANSHIPS

Washington State adopted a new Minor Guardianship law on January 1, 2021. The new law repeals the old non-parental custody law. Final nonparent custody orders remain valid, but new nonparental custody cases cannot be filed after January 2021.  Instead, you need to file for Minor Guardianship and/or Emergency Minor Guardianship. The old Non-Parental Custody Law and new Minor Guardianship law are very different. The Northwest Justice Project has created a video that gives a “Quick Take” on changes to the law, which can be found here.

Guardianship Basics

Guardianship is where a court appoints someone to make decisions and act for someone else. Under RCW 11.130, a court can appoint a guardian for a minor (child) which will give the guardian the right to do things that a parent would generally do. The court can appoint a guardian when the guardianship is in the best interests of the child, and one of the following is true: 

  • Each parent of the minor agrees after being informed about what a guardianship means; or

  • All parental rights have been terminated; or

  • There is clear and convincing evidence that no parent of the minor is willing or able to exercise parenting functions as defined in RCW 26.09.004

Types of Minor Guardianship Cases

There are two main types of guardianship cases. Many people may need to file both types of petitions to get the orders they need.

You can file an Emergency Minor Guardianship and a Minor Guardianship case at the same time. The court may use an Emergency Minor Guardianship Order to place the children with a guardian while the Minor Guardianship case moves forward.

NOTE: If you need both an Emergency and Minor Guardianship you must file two separate petitions, with two separate cases and case numbers.  At the first hearing you can ask the judge to consolidate (combine) the two cases or the judge may combine them on their own.

Types of Minor Guardianship Cases

Minor Guardianship: File this case when you need rights to care for a child for a long period of time. Usually it will take at least 60 days to finalize a minor guardianship, so if you need an order before that, you will also need to file for Emergency Minor Guardianship.

Emergency Minor Guardianship: File this case when you need an order giving you rights to care for a child right away. Emergency Minor Guardianships usually only last for 60 days, so if you need a long-term order, you will also need to file for Minor Guardianship.



Steps to Ask for Minor Guardianship

  1. Download and fill out forms: To start a Minor Guardianship case, you will need to file forms with the clerk’s office. The forms you need can be downloaded at https://www.courts.wa.gov/forms/?fa=forms.contribute&formID=125. A child or an interested party may file the petition.

The forms you will need to start the case are:

 

You must request criminal history and CPS background information for the proposed guardian(s) and any residents of the guardian(s)’ household. You must:
  1. Get the Washington Access to Criminal History Report
    1. You can get a copy of this report online at WATCH Overview - Washington State Patrol or you can get a copy in person or by mail. For more information visit: Criminal History - WSP (wa.gov)
    2. Put the Criminal History Cover Sheet (form GDN M 407) on top of the criminal history report.
  2. Submit the Motion and Order to DCYF to Release CPS Information
    1. Download and fill out the Motion for DCYF Order and Order to DCYF to Release CPS Information (GDN M 404 and GDN M 405).
    2. The order must be signed by a judicial officer. Submit the motion to the court using the Court’s Ex Parte Via the Clerk (EVPC) process.


  1. File all of the forms including the criminal history report with the clerk. You can e-file here or you can file in person at the courthouse. Once you file the case, the Court will give you a Case Scheduling Order. That Order will have important dated and deadlines. You must read and understand the case schedule.

 IMPORTANT! Your Case Schedule will set a review hearing 60 days after the date you file your case. Before you serve the Notice on the other people in your case, you must take the date of the 60 day hearing, that is listed on your case schedule, and put it on the Notice of Hearing form (GDN M 001)

 You must attend the 60-day hearing and be prepared IN ADVANCE to provide the Court detailed information about your case.




  1. Serve the other people in the case: You must take steps to serve the petition and related documents on all of the parties who must be served, and you must send the notice of the 60-day hearing you have prepared to everyone who is entitled to notice. Proof of service and proof of sending the notice of hearing must be filed with the Court before the 60-day hearing.


  1. Prepare for the 60-day hearing: Before 60-day hearing, you must:
    1. Determine the following:
  1. Does a court visitor need to be appointed?
  2. Does an attorney need to be appointed for the minor or a parent?
  3. Does a guardian ad litem (GAL) need to be appointed?
  4. IMPORTANT! If any of these steps need to be taken, they should occur in advance of the 60-day hearing.Motions regarding these steps may be presented via the Ex Parte Via the Clerk (EPVC) process.
  • Fill out the 60-day hearing checklist: Before the 60-day hearing you must complete and file the Court’s 60-day hearing checklist. If you have not completed items on the checklist by your hearing date, the Court likely will set another hearing where you will be required to show that the missing items have been completed.

 


 At the 60-day hearing the Commissioner will determine whether the case is ready to move forward, including:

 o   Whether all of the necessary parties have been served/whether all necessary parties have notice of the hearing;

o   Whether the criminal history and CPS background checks have occurred and are acceptable;

o   Whether a visitor or GAL, or attorney for any party needs to be appointed and if those steps have been taken.

 The Commissioner may also decide whether the guardianship can be completed by default, by agreement, or if the case needs to be set for a contested trial. The Commissioner will either refer the matter to a trial judge to set a trial, or set additional Ex Parte hearings to finish the case.

IMPORTANT! All final minor guardianship orders (even if agreed) must be presented via a scheduled hearing.


 



Steps to Ask for Emergency Minor Guardianship

Use an Emergency Minor Guardianship Petition if you need an order sooner.  The hearing on an Emergency Minor Guardianship is set before a judge on the first Friday at least 14 days after filing. 

If you need an immediate order entered without notice to other parties before the time that the 14-day hearing is set, you may schedule a hearing for an Immediate Emergency Minor Guardianship Order on the daily Ex Parte Emergency calendar (2 p.m. every weekday).  (forms GDN M 204 and 205)

You must request criminal history and CPS background information for the proposed guardian(s) and any residents of the guardian(s)’ household by filing the following requests. These should be done immediately after the case is filed:

  1. Get the Washington Access to Criminal History Report
    1. You can get a copy of this report online at WATCH Overview - Washington State Patrol or you can get a copy in person or by mail. For more information visit: Criminal History - WSP (wa.gov)
    2. Put the Criminal History Cover Sheet (form GDN M 407) on top of the criminal history report.
  2. Submit the Motion and Order to DCYF to Release CPS Information
    1. Download and fill out the Motion for DCYF Order and Order to DCYF to Release CPS Information (GDN M 404 and GDN M 405).
    2. The order must be signed by a judicial officer. Submit the motion to the court using the Court’s Ex Parte Via the Clerk (EVPC) process.

 

Except in the case of threat of imminent harm or if it is impracticable to do so, the moving party shall pick their hearing date, file a notice of hearing and any other required forms, and give the other party at least two days' notice of his or her intent to seek immediate orders. Such notice is required in all cases unless the moving party clearly shows by sworn declaration that immediate injury, loss or damage will result if notice is given.

IMPORTANT: The Ex Parte Department calendars have limited spaces available. Prior to filing A Notice of Court Date for BOTH the temporary AND return hearings you must visit https://kingcounty.gov/courts/clerk/calendars.aspx to find available court date(s).

Below are instructions for requesting an exception to any caps for emergency motions. 

Emergency Motions: Same Day Presentation

Parties with emergencies may reserve a hearing the same day (pending availability) so long as they file the required forms and notify the Ex Parte Department by 12:00 PM by email toSCEXPARTEORDERS@KINGCOUNTY.GOV, as well as opposing party/counsel. Parties shall attach their filed Notice of Hearing, motion materials and any proposed orders. The subject line of the email should read “NOTICE OF HEARING ________ (Date): CASE NUMBER:______________.”

In the event there are no slots available for a same day hearing and/or if harm will result prior to the next available date, parties may request an exceptionno later than 12:00 PMfollowing the same process. Please attach your filed Notice of Hearing, motion materials and any proposed orders. The subject line of the email should read“REQUEST FOR EXCEPTION TODAY ______: CASE NUMBER:______.”

If the Commissioner grants the immediate order, the Commissioner will also set the matter for a review hearing before a judge. These will be set on the next available Friday at 11 a.m. before the assigned judge.

Petitioners seeking appointment of an emergency guardian with notice to other parties will have their hearing on the assigned judge’s Friday 11 a.m. minor guardianship calendar on the first Friday at least 14 days after filing. 

Information for People with Nonparental Custody Matters

In order to complete or finalize your case, the Court must receive, approve, and sign the final documents for your particular case. Because of new procedures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, your case may be finalized based on written pleadings, without the need to come to the courthouse

Finalize a Non-Parent Custody Case | WashingtonLawHelp.org | Helpful information about the law in Washington.


In nonparental custody cases where the court has already entered final orders, nothing will happen. Those final orders are still good. The nonparent custodian still has legal custody. For pending cases (cases started but not yet finished), where the court has not entered final orders, you are urged to finish your case as soon as possible. Cases filed in 2020 or earlier need to be finished no later than June 30, 2021. A case may be resolved by the entry of default orders (if responding parents are in default), , dismissal of the case, entry of agreed orders (all parties must agree), or by trial.

Any nonparental custody case that has not been finalized by June 30, 2021, will likely be dismissed.  You will then need to file a Minor Guardianship and/or Emergency Minor Guardianship case.