The Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act.
In 2019 the Legislature adopted the Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act (UGA). As adapted for Washington, the UGA repealed and replaced existing state guardianship laws and laws on nonparental actions for child custody. The UGA covers guardianships, conservatorships, and protective arrangements for both minors and adults.
Guardianship of Minors under the UGA.
Any person interested in the welfare of a minor, including the minor, may petition for appointment of a guardian for the minor. A person becomes a guardian for a minor only on appointment by the court. The court may appoint a guardian for a minor if the court finds the appointment is in the minor's best interest and:
The court may appoint a guardian ad litem for a minor if the court determines the minor's interest otherwise would not be adequately represented.
Priority of Appointment for a Guardian of a Minor.
The priority of appointment for a guardian of a minor under the UGA is as follows:
On its own or on petition by a person interested in a minor's welfare, the court may appoint an emergency guardian for a minor to prevent substantial harm to the minor's health, safety, or welfare where no other person has the authority or willingness to act in the circumstances.
Disclosure of Bankruptcy or Criminal History.
Before accepting appointment as a guardian or conservator, a person must disclose to the court whether the person:
If a guardian or conservator engages or anticipates engaging an agent, the guardian or conservator must promptly disclose to the court any knowledge of the agent's conviction of a felony, a crime involving dishonesty, neglect, violence, or use of physical force, or other crimes relevant to the functions the agent is being engaged to perform.
Background Information to Be Consulted by the Court.
Before granting any order for guardianship of a minor, the court must consult the Judicial Information System, if available, to determine the existence of any information and proceedings that are relevant to the placement of the child, and direct the Department of Children, Youth, and Families to release information retained in the course of conducting child protective services investigations.
The petitioner must provide to the court the results of an examination of state and national criminal identification data for the petitioner and adult members of the petitioner's household.
Concurrent Original Jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court and the Family Court.
The juvenile court has concurrent original jurisdiction with the family court over child custody proceedings under the repealed statutes related to nonparental actions for child custody, and over parenting plans or residential schedules under the statutes related to child welfare (dependency) court proceedings.
Parenting Seminars Ordered or Recommended by the Family Court.
Family court judges and court commissioners may order or recommend to the parties before the court parenting seminars, fully or partially at the expense of the parties, according to the parties' ability to pay.
Any court rules adopted for the implementations of parenting seminars must provide that in no case the opposing parties may be required to attend seminars together. Upon a showing of domestic violence or abuse or if a parent's attendance is not in the child's best interest, the court must either waive the requirement to complete the seminar or provide an alternative, voluntary seminar for battered spouses or battered domestic partners. The court may also waive the seminar for good cause.
Confidential Information Form.
All petitioners and parties to all court actions under domestic relations laws, including actions under the repealed provisions regarding nonparental actions for child custody, must complete a verified and signed confidential information form or equivalent that provides the parties' identifying information, such as mailing addresses and telephone numbers, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and contact information of the parties' employers.
Except in state-initiated parentage actions, the clerk of the court does not accept petitions, orders of child support, decrees of dissolution, or parentage orders for filing unless the confidential information form or equivalent is already on file with the court clerk. In lieu of or in addition to requiring the parties to complete a separate confidential information form, the clerk may collect the information in electronic form.
Provisions of the Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act (UGA) related to guardianship of minors are amended as follows:
The juvenile court has concurrent original jurisdiction with the probate court, in addition to the family court, over minor guardianship proceedings under the UGA.
Cases filed as a minor guardianship under the UGA are exempt from requirements of parenting seminar attendance.
Cross-references to the repealed provisions regarding nonparental actions for child custody are corrected to refer to the UGA in the statutes related to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and confidential information form required in all domestic relations actions. It is specified that the requirement to complete the confidential information form ensures that the parties' information is added to the Judicial Information System's person database.
(In support) This bill represents the agreed-upon changes that improve the minor guardianship statute that has been in effect now for just over a year. These changes reflect the things that judges, child welfare advocates, and other stakeholders have learned in working with this new law.
One of the areas of concern in current law pertains to emergency guardianships. Currently, emergency guardianships can only be granted if there is a separate petition filed in addition to the petition for guardianship of a minor. This is a huge burden for unrepresented parties to have to navigate this law on their own, so the bill addresses that problem.
The bill addresses some inconsistencies in the standards between an emergency guardianship and a full guardianship. The bill's clarification related to concurrent jurisdiction is critical to the smooth operation of the guardianship process.