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AGLO 1974 No. 21 - February 20, 1974
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

MINORS ‑- DEFINITION OF DEPENDENT CHILD UNDER RCW 13.04.010

A minor child living separate and apart from his parents with their consent but with no other adult guardian does not thereby constitute a "dependent child" as defined in RCW 13.04.010 if he does not lack subsistence.

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                                                                February 20, 1974

Honorable David F. Thiele
Island County Prosecuting Attorney
Island County Court House
Coupeville, Washington 98239                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1974 No. 21

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you have asked for our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Does a minor child living separate and apart from his parents with their consent but with no other adult guardian thereby constitute a "dependent child" as defined in RCW 13.04.010 even though he does not lack subsistence and is law abiding in all respects?

            We believe that this question is answerable in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            As expressly defined in RCW 13.04.010, a "dependent child" means:

            ". . . any child under the age of eighteen years:

            (1) Who has no home or any settled place of abode, or any proper guardianship, or any visible means of subsistence: or

            (2) Who has no parent, guardian or other responsible person; or who has no parent or guardian willing to exercise, or capable of exercising, proper parental control; or

            (3) Whose home by reason of neglect, cruelty or depravity of his parents or either of them, or on the part of his guardian, or on the part of the person in whose custody or care he may be, or for any other reason, is an unfit place for such child; or

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            (4) Who frequents the company of reputed criminals, vagrants or prostitutes; or

            (5) Who is found living or being in any house of prostitution or assignation; or

            (6) Who habitually visits any saloon, or place where spirituous, vinous, or malt liquors are consumed or sold, bartered, or given away; or

            (7) Who is incorrigible; that is, who is beyond the control and power of his parents, guardian, or custodian by reason of the conduct or nature of said child; or

            (8) Who is in danger of being brought up to lead an idle, dissolute or immoral life; or

            (9) Who is an habitual truant, as defined in the school laws of the state of Washington; or

            (10) Who uses intoxicating liquor as a beverage, or who uses opium, cocaine, morphine, heroin, or marijuana, or other similar drug, without the direction of a competent physician; or

            (11) Who wanders about in the nighttime without being on any lawful business or occupation; or

            (12) Who is grossly and wilfully neglected as to medical care necessary for his well being."

            We do not find in this statute any indication of legislative intent to characterize a child as "dependent" simply because he is living alone and not under the same roof as his parents.  In order to fall within this classification, the child must come squarely within one or more of the specific categories enumerated in subsections (1) through (12) of the statute.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Accordingly, we answer your question, as above paraphrased, in the negative.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

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