The first method for getting non-parent custody of a child involves applying for guardianship. However, consent guardianship is not possible if one parent does not agree to give consent. I don't know if both parents will agree here, because I don't know the situation with the father, unless he's your son and will cooperate, but either way, both parents must sign for this. Otherwise, this can't happen. The bot***** *****ne for this is yes, you can have the mother sign forms but the father has to sign too.
If the mother (or father) is not willing to agree, you can file for "in loco parentis" custody. "In loco parentis" means "in place of the parents" or "instead of the parents." In this case, non-parents file with the court where the child currently or permanently resides. The non-parental filing will need to detail the cause for the petition, and will involve a formal notification to the child's parents, guardians, and various other interested parties.
To gain non-parent custody, the non-parent(s) must generally be able to show the following:
- That they have a long-standing relationship with the child, and are fully capable of substituting for the parents in caring for the child.
- That it is not only not in the child's best interests but also to his detriment to be left with parents who wish to retain custody.
- That the court with jurisdiction in the matter has not made a custody determination within one year of the filing, with the exception of cases when the child's physical, emotional, moral, or mental health is in jeopardy.
- That one of the following criteria applies: a) One of the child's legal parents is deceased; or b) the child's parents are not married at the time of the filing, or c) the child's parents are legally separated or are divorcing at the time of the filing.
Courts take the rights of biological parents seriously, and the non-parents filing for custody must convincingly prove that it is in the child's best interests to be removed from the care of their biological parents to be placed with the non-parent. These stringent rules apply not only to custody battles, but also to non-parental visitation rights.
The key here is that it is not in the best interests of the children to be with either their mother or father. That's what you will have to show the court. Washington State law has been in a state of flux with grandparents' rights because the biggest case in the country dealing with grandparents' rights came from Washington state, went all the way to the US Supreme Court, and every lawyer who deals with grandparents rights knows this case. The Wash. grandparent statute was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court so the new statutes in Washington are different than they were ten years ago.
You should be able to get non-parent in loco parentis for your grandchildren or some form of guardianship from the court pretty easily. They have been living with you for the last 7 years, and as long as it's in their best interests, this relationship could be legalized. I don't know how old the kids are but if they're young, they're not going to have much of a say about where they want to be. If you've been raising them, both of you have been like parents to the kids. That's what they know and the court will understand that and probably agree that that's in their best interests.