On June 25, the Washington State Supreme Court heard oral argument in In re Custody of M.W., a case that concerns the application of the de facto parent doctrine. Legal Voice filed an amicus curiae brief in the Court to offer our views on the proper application of the doctrine.
The de facto parent doctrine was first recognized by the Washington Supreme Court in In re Parentage of L.B., a Legal Voice case decided in 2005. The doctrine allows a person who has functioned in every respect as a child’s parent to be legally recognized as a parent, subject to a stringent test.
A key question presented in M.W. is whether the trial court properly held that a child’s step-grandparent had shown adequate cause to seek de facto parent status. Legal Voice’s brief argued that under the facts of the case, the de facto parent doctrine was not properly applied by the trial court—a position that counsel for the step-grandparent did not dispute at oral argument. While noting that the doctrine was not correctly applied in this case, Legal Voice’s brief also urged the Court to maintain the de facto parent doctrine as an available remedy in appropriate cases because of its importance in preserving parent-child relationships.