I have shared 50/50 custody of my 4 year old daughter. Unfortunately, my parenting plan has a "right of refusal clause" which is causing way more conflict than benefit. The clause specifies it "shall not apply to family members after the child has reached kindergarten." My girlfriend (and her 2 daughters) have now lived with me for over a year and I consider them all family. I provide for them financially (mother left job to stay at home with kids), we take family portraits and go on family vacations. My girlfriend is on my healthcare, as I've registered her as a domestic partner with my company. We're not married, but we intend to do so at some point, on our own timeline. Meanwhile, my daughter starts kindergarten in the fall, and my ex is positing that my girlfriend isn't "family" and is not included in the right of first refusal exclusion above. Thoughts? Does a non-married partner meet the court's definition of "family" given the context above?
Depends on who the Judge is hearing the case -- there is no bright line rule for your situation. The definition of family has changed over the years and the statutes rarely keep pace with changing values.. Right now she is neither a step parent or a parent which puts you ion a bad place. The law in Wa still prefers parents to be married and actively promotes marriage accordingly.
Please note that THESE COMMENTS ARE NOT INTENDED AS LEGAL ADVICE and are for informational purposes only. This response is not intended to create any attorney-client relationship and is only based on the limited facts given. The response might change should additional facts be learned and should not be relied on as legal advice. It is recommended that you consult with an attorney who can properly assess the situation, as well as all pertinent facts, prior to taking any action based on the foregoing statements
You and your girlfriend can walk away from each other without having to go to court. You two are not related to each other in any biological way. So, she is not family as contemplated in your parenting plan.
If you two want to marry each other in your "own timeline", then you have to bear the consequences of that decision.
I have never seen the alleged benefits of a right of first refusal clause. If the parents were getting along, one parent likely would think of the other parent as the choice to take care of the child when the one parent becomes unavailable temporarily to take care of the child. Those parents do not need any clause to prompt them to think like that. If the parents do not get along with each other, the right of first refusal seems like an attempt to control the choices of the other parent.
Unless one parent has a history of making bad judgment, the parent likely will make a good judgment as to where to place the child should that need arises. If a parent has a history of making bad judgment, that should have been brought out during the trial so that the judge can consider restrictions on the parent with a history of making bad judgment.
You should carefully review the parenting plan. Unless you are gone from the child for days, the right of first refusal likely is not triggered.
You should review the specific facts with your attorney to find out your legal options.
The Washington Registered Domestic Partnership Act, RCW 26.60.10 states:
The rights granted to state registered domestic partners in chapter 156, Laws of 2007 will further Washington's interest in promoting family relationships and protecting family members during life crises.
I do not think you are in an official registered domestic partnership however.
You could file a motion for clarification, asking the court to determine whether it applies or not.
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