De facto parentage is an area of law that few people outside of the family law community know about. It is a common law remedy for adults who have taken on the role of parent in a child’s life, without being a biological or adoptive parent to the child.
Certain circumstances have to have occurred in order for a de facto parentage relationship to have existed. Most importantly, an adult (often a person in a relationship with the child’s parent) is invited into the child’s life, and is encouraged by one or both of the parents to act as a parent to the child. Sometimes the adult invited into the child’s life is not ever excluded and the child and adult enjoy the benefits of their relationship without interruption.
Unfortunately, sometimes things don’t go as smoothly, and the child’s legal parent decides to exclude the other parent-like adult from the child’s life. In these cases (assuming that the child has at least one fit and available parent), Washington statutes will not provide a remedy for the person seeking to continue his or her relationship with the child. Fortunately for people in these circumstances, they may be able to protect their relationship with the child by qualifying as a de facto parent under the common law. To qualify as a de facto parent, the person must have (1) taken on a parenting role in the life of the child with the permission of one of the child’s parents; (2) lived in the same household as the child; (3) not expected financial compensation for having a parent-like relationship with the child; and (4) continued the adult/child relationship over a length of time sufficient to have established a bonded parental-like relationship with the child.