Legal Question in Family Law in Washington
Nearly seven years ago, when my daughter was 6, I had a mounting substance abuse problem and subsequently found myself in some legal trouble..i had been primary, sole custodian of my daughter since birth. Her father resides in Oregon and though we have a non-adverse relationship, he was really never overly involved in her life and there was no friction nor restirctions set on him to visit her, etc.
6 years ago, I self-admitted to my parents and siblings that I had a substance abuse issue and felt I needed to get some help. I was hesitant to enter an in-patient program without securing a safe, secure place for my daughter while I was away. My father and step-mother live near me and have been somewhat involved in the child's life, however there are issues of sexual misconduct by my father against my sisters and I when I was the age of my daughter at the time this all occurred (6years old). Long story shorter, my legal issues affected and were against my father and his wife. They prosecuted me and had me arrested on inv of the charges. I was in custody for not quite 24 hours, in which time, child's father came from Oregon and attended Ex-Parte court with my parents to grant the grandparents temp custody of my daughter. WHich they did. Additionally, I was served with a restraining order from any contact with my child. About a year later, after several court appearances, substance abuse treatment, more legal issues filed by parents-my father told me that a temp custody order is only good for one year in Washington and they "had" to file for permanent custody of her. Simultaneously, I was facing criminal charges in 55 cases filed by my parents..
they incentivized me to plea to 5 and accept a drug offenders sentencing alternative which would also provide (theoretically) additional treatment.
The permanent custody hearing was scheduled 1 week to the day that my sentencing hearing was scheduled for.Clearly, there was no grounds for me to obtain any kind of custody with that timing. I was granted a visitation with my daughter (after 364 days of not seeing her). I then went away for 4 months to do my time and was released and had "supervised visitation" 4 hours a week with the Grandparents as supervisors..this lasted a few months and the stress of all the situation was too much for me to bear. I left the state to go to other family for a while to try to put my life back together...during which time, I made frequent trips (3x/year or more) back to WA to see my daughter. and the Gparents brought her to see me 1 or 2 times during that three years. I moved back to Washington 3 years ago and my daughter is now 13.I have continued to stay clean, have my own home, good job/business and lots of support and am active in my recovery still. My parents have violated the parenting plan repeatedly by letting my daughter come to my house "unsupervised", even granting one overnight. Child tells me that my parents "trust me now". THe issue for me here is that she is having a lot of issues at home with the Grandparents and last week went so far as to semi-"runaway". She and I have a very open, strong communicative relationship and she contacted me and we talked it through and the decision was reached that it was in her best interest to go on back home...which she did. During these events, she expressed that she would like to have a more shared living situation between my house and her grandparents..I would welcome that and we both agree that I am not quite in a situation that would be in her best interest to live full time with me yet...(financial, space-wise, etc). My question here is...how do I go about getting more access to her on a more permanent basis? Not really wanting to go back through the courts, as anything done that route puts my parents in "defense" mode and likely a fight will ensue. Is there a way to make modifications to the parenting plan that they would still feel thay have the "control" they so desire, yet gives my daughter and I a little more assurance that our time is not subject to change at the discretion of their moods, or my (alcoholic) step-mother's current inebriation status?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Generally speaking, you are going to have to go through the Courts to get a parenting plan modified and legally enforceable. If the other party will agree to the modification, you can simply submit an agreed modified parenting plan to the Court for signature, and it will become an official part of your case file. If you cannot come to an agreement with the other party, then you will likely need to petition the Court for modification of your current parenting plan to get more residential time with your child. If you go this route, it would likely be beneficial to consult with an attorney to assist you through the process.