Legal Issues

Legal Options

There are a variety of legal issues that many relatives raising children face.  To help provide information, the following resources are available:

  • Legal Voice has an updated edition of Options for Grandparents and Other Nonparental Caregivers: A Legal Guide for Washington State completed in March 2017. This handbook is for grandparents and other non-parent caregivers regarding legal relationships with the children in their care.

    Written in plain language, it gives basic information on key areas of family law, juvenile justice issues, and public benefits, including:

  • Dependency process
  • Guardianship
  • Nonparental/Third-Party Custody
  • Adoption
  • Indian Child Welfare Act
  • Temporary Parental Consent Agreements
  • Child in Need and At-Risk Youth Procedures

The guide also provides links and contact information for legal services, public agencies, and helpful resources. It is available online and in print. These guides are available in Kinship Navigator offices and at Area Agencies on Aging who administer the Kinship Caregiver Support Programs for caregivers who need legal information.   You can also read the guide online:  www.legalvoice.org/options-grandparents

Legal Services

Free legal advice   

Contact the Coordinated Legal Education, Advice, and Referral - CLEAR. CL EAR is Northwest Justice Project's toll-free telephone service for eligible low-income people to obtain free legal assistance with civil legal problems.

Call toll-free at 1-888-201-1014 - if you are under 60 and low-income. King County residents should call 206-464-1519 for information and referral.

If you are over 60 at any income level call CLEAR toll-free at 1-888-387-7111.

Kinship Care Solutions is a program for King County residents or persons who have a case in King County only. Volunteer attorneys assist low-income caregivers who want to file nonparental custody actions. Contact the King County Bar Association Lawyer Referral at 206-267-7010 or email cls@kcba.org.

Additional ways to find a lawyer

The Washington State Bar Association website. These are not low-cost or reduced fee attorneys.

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys website has a listing of lawyers who specialize in elder law. These are not low-cost or reduced fee attorneys.

Advocacy for Youth

TeamChild provides free holistic civil legal representation to youth who are experiencing significant barriers to accessing community based services, school programs and the treatment they need to be successful in their lives and stay out of trouble. TeamChild has five offices in Washington State in King, Pierce, Snohomish, Yakima and Spokane Counties. For more information about TeamChild and educational advocacy resources please visit www.TeamChild.org

Child Support Resources

The DSHS Division of Child Support - DCS offers two programs to help ensure a child in your care receives child support.

Establishing Paternity

Establishing paternity creates a legal relationship between a father and a child, which can help provide a family medical history and eligibility for Social Security or other dependent benefits for the child. This can also help the child's parent because dependent benefits paid on behalf of a parent are credited as child support payments.

Child support enforcement

DCS will enforce an existing child support order, such as a divorce decree or will establish a support order if one is needed. DCS sets support obligations based on a parent's ability to pay. DCS will also attempt to have the parents cover the child on their own medical insurance, if available.

For information on all DCS services, visit the DCS website or call 1-800-442-KIDS.

You can apply for DCS services even if you don't receive any public assistance. Receiving TANF or medical assistance automatically results in a DCS case. If you are afraid that cooperating with DCS may be dangerous for you or the child, contact your local Community Services Office to discuss "good cause" not to cooperate.

Helpful Resource Guide

A Guide to Child Support Services for Relative Caregivers (PDF) (DSHS 22-1143) This brochure describes what services the DSHS Division of Child Support - DCS can provide to you if you are taking care of a relative’s child. DCS can establish paternity, as well as establish, enforce or modify child support orders. Learn what services you receive if you receive public assistance or Medicaid for the child in your household. Learn also about what you must do to help DCS, and what to do if you believe that child support services might result in harm to you or the child in your household.

To view one or more of these publications, you'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you don't have it on your computer, download it here. It is free software. After you download Acrobat Reader, run the installer.

If you have trouble downloading or installing, read Adobe's Technical Troubleshooting Guide. It links to several helpful troubleshooting documents.