Everyone and their Mother – who is entitled to “Notice” in a Minor Guardianship action?
The Minor Guardianship law went into effect in January 2021, replacing non-parental custody rules and procedures. It massively expanded the number of people to which you need to give notice.
Previously, it was just a matter between the parents, whoever, had custody of the kids, and whoever wanted to get custody of the kids. Now, you must provide notice to the entire family of the kids – and the kids themselves if they are over the age of 12. There are two tiers of notice.
The following people must be personally served – (meaning literally handed to them by an adult not involved in the case):
- The parents
- If no parents, an adult with the nearest kinship
- The child (if age 12 or older)
- The person who currently is the guardian or has custody of the child
- Any other person the court determines needs personal service
The second tier of notice just requires mailing or by “some other way likely to give notice.”
- All four living grandparents
- Every adult sibling of any child
- Any adult who is the primary caregiver of the child but not technically a guardian or person with custody
- Anyone who had primary care or custody of the child for at least 60 days in the past 2 years
- Anyone who had primary care and custody of the child for at least 730 days in the past 5 years.
- Any person the child over the age of 12 nominates for their own guardian
- Any person nominated to be the guardian by either parent
- Any conservator acting on behalf of the minor for any reason
- Any other person the court determines.
That can be a lot of people, especially in a large family! If you appear at your hearing and you cannot show you attempted to give notice to these dozens of people in the second tier – and DID actually give notice to the first tier – the judge or commissioner might send you away and order you to try again without ruling on your case. For the mailings, each one should go by certified mail to prove you sent them, when you sent them, and if they received the notice. For personal service, most firms contract with professionals who specialize in personally delivering the documents to people in a manner the court accepts.
The 2021 Washington Guardianship law has dramatically expanded the difficulty of conducting guardianship / non-parental custody cases – this is just one of many aspects that need to be addressed. If you are a concerned relative of the children, the parents of the children, or the child yourself (if you are over 12), it’s vital that you hire a family law attorney to represent you and help you navigate this complex law. The kids are worth it.