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Legal Issues

Legal Options

Because of the number and variety of legal issues many relatives raising children face, two resources are available which explore the issues more fully.

To obtain a copy of the DVD/video, Legal Options for Grandparents and Relatives Raising Children in Washington State (1 hour and 23 minutes) call Hilari Hauptman 1-800-422-3263 or email Hilari.Hauptman@dshs.wa.gov.

Options for Grandparents and Other Non-parental Caregivers: A Legal Guide for Washington State is available from Legal Voice. Call 206-682-9552 or email info@legalvoice.org to request a free copy.

In addition, Washington State law allows an adult who is raising a relative's child to consent to health care (both medical and mental health) even if there is no formal legal custody. Learn more by reading A Kinship Caregiver's Guide to Consent to Health Care developed by Columbia Legal Services.  There is also a related DSHS brochure translated into six languages (check under Publications),  Consent to Health Care for the Child in Your Care (PDF).


Free legal advice   

Contact the Legal Voice information and referral line at 206-621-7691 (TTY 206-521-4317), Monday-Thursday between 9:30 am and 4:30 pm and Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 5:30 and 7:30 pm or visit the Legal Voice website.

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.

The Northwest Justice Project also has a website that has a self-help booklets on a variety of topics on family law. Visit the Northwest Justice Project website.

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

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.