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How do I get legal guardianship of my nephew?

Sumner, WA |

I took my 16 yr. old nephew into my home on Jan. 1st 2012. His parents are alcoholics and drug users. They have been separated for over a year and his mother has been to two different rehabs with no results, and his father works intermittently and has lost his home, driving privledges, and his business. Both of my nephews parents are toxic beyond belief. I want to have legal custody of my nephew. I don't have a lot of money for attorney fees as I am now his sole support. My brother (his father) might consider giving me legal guardianship, but I doubt his mother would without a legal fight. I really need some help or direction as to how to get this done. I fear they could demand him back and he would be in a very toxic and unsafe environment with either one of them.

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Attorney answers 2


You would need to file a third party custody action which can be complicated. If you can get Mom an Dad to sign off on the petition, then it is not that difficult. Absent that agreement, however, it is unlikely that you could do this by yourself because it involves a full trial with lots of procedural steps that can be avoided. At the very least, you need to spend some money to have a consultation with a local family law attorney.

Hope this helps

The information is for general information purposes only. Nothing stated above should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation.


Guardianship would not necessarily trump the natural parents' custody rights; for that you would need to initiate a third-party custody proceeding, and both parents would have the right to participate in the proceeding. If you won, the end result would be a parenting plan/residential schedule that spells out when the child is to reside with you, and what visitation the parents would have.

If cost is a concern, you could contact the Northwest Women's Law Center in Seattle; I believe they have a list of attorneys willing to take custody cases like this on a pro bono or sliding scale basis.

The response does not constitute specific legal advice, which would require a full inquiry by the attorney into the complete background of the facts and circumstances surrounding this matter; rather, it is intended to be general legal information based on the limited information provided by the inquirer; it This response also does not constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship, which can only be established after a conflict of interest evaluation is completed, your case is accepted, and a fee agreement is signed.

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