Friday, October 31, 2014

Stepparents and De Facto Parentage

Last week, the Washington State Division III Court of Appeals issued a new ruling which changes the landscape for many stepparents in establishing a right to parent a stepchild when the child has two living legal parents.

In In re J.B.R., the court held that the doctrine of de facto parentage may be extended to such situations if the stepparent establishes the relevant factors, which include establishing that both legal parents consented to the stepparent being a parent to the child.

The legal father in this case had no contact with the child after he was two years old. The mother married the petitioner, and the child and the petitioner had a parental-like relationship. In any case, a person petitioning for de facto parentage must show that:

(1) the natural or legal parent consented to and fostered the parent-like relationship,
(2) the petitioner and the child lived together in the same household,
(3) the petitioner assumed obligations of parenthood without expectation of financial compensation, and
(4) the petitioner has been in a parental role for a length of time sufficient to have established with the child a bonded, dependent relationship, parental in nature.

In fact, this extension of the de facto parentage analysis can create a situation where the child has two legal parents and a de facto parent, which is given legal parity to a legal parent. De facto parentage is an ever-evolving area of law. I expect that this case will be appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court and additional litigation will arise due to this new decision. If you have questions about de facto parentage, please schedule a consultation at (425) 869-4040.


  1. I've never been a child of divorce, so I've never really understood how step parenting and de facto parenting works. I'm getting a divorce with my wife at the present moment. I want to date, and I plan on re-marrying, but I don't know how a new woman in the picture will affect my kids, or how that will affect the legalities of my divorce. I suppose a good family law attorney will help me to figure out how a step wife will affect the legal details to my divorce.

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