Child Custody in Washington
We understand that a child custody battle is a personal and highly emotional issue. This is why we’re so passionate about connecting you with Washington professionals that will help you fight for your rights as a parent.
What Is Child Custody?
When two parents separate, they must decide on how their children spend time between them. Child custody refers to the right of either or both parents to provide a home for their children and exercise parental rights. In Washington, not all child custody cases go to court, but when they do, courts make their decisions based on what they think is most beneficial for the child.
Types of Child Custody Arrangements in Washington
There are three main types of arrangements that can occur. These include full custody, sole custody, and joint custody. In Washington, the Superior Courts have jurisdiction over child custody cases. Washington has 39 Superior Courts, one in each of the state’s counties.
What Is Full Custody?
In a full custody arrangement, one parent receives the majority of the parenting time and maintains physical custody. In most instances, this person also makes the majority of the decisions about the child’s upbringing and has control over decisions related to health, education, and religion. The parent awarded full custody is the primary custodial parent.
In Washington, the judge will try to incorporate both parents into the parenting plan. However, if one parent is unfit, Washington law states that a judge can award all the parenting time and decision-making authority to the other parent. Specifically, the judge may award full custody to one parent if the unfit parent shows neglect or non-performance of parenting functions. This might also happen if emotional ties between one parent and the child are absent. Additionally, if there is a history of domestic violence or substance abuse, that may also contribute to a full custody order.
To modify an existing child custody order you can file a motion with the Superior Court that issued the order, as long as there has been a substantial change in circumstances. In Washington, a charge of domestic violence may constitute a substantial change in circumstance.
Even when children only live with one parent, the other parent can still be a part of their lives. The custodial parent may allow visiting time or the children may spend a few weekends with the non-custodial parent. In some instances, a parent awarded full custody might still maintain joint custody in practice with their partner for the benefit of the children.
What Is Sole Custody?
Most people do not differentiate between one parent getting the overwhelming majority of the parenting time or rights and sole custody. However, it is important to note the possibility of some parents getting no parenting time or rights at all. The court will provide one parent with sole physical custody if the other parent is deemed an unfit parent.
In some cases, the court may go as far as to terminate the rights of the other parent. This may occur if the parent gets convicted of particular crimes that might endanger a child. An example is child abuse or inappropriate sexual conduct with a child. Washington state laws vary on what might result in parental termination.
What Is Joint Custody?
Joint custody describes the arrangement where both parents of the child split physical custody. When parents share equal custody, the child may spend a week or two on and off with either parent. Some families also practice “nesting”, where both parents move in and out of the home the child lives in when it is their turn to have custody.
According to the Washington State Legislature, joint custody will be awarded when it serves the best interests of the child. Specifically, a joint custody parenting agreement may be approved if it maintains a child’s emotional growth, health and stability, and physical care. Furthermore, the existing pattern of interaction between a parent and child should only be altered to protect the child from physical, mental, or emotional harm.
In many joint custody arrangements, one parent may retain complete responsibility. This is for any major decisions in regard to the well-being of the child. Also, joint custody does not always mean an equal sharing of time. In most instances, one parent still retains primary custody. In these cases, they may hold the larger portion of a 60/40 time split.
The Factors Courts Consider When Making a Decision
In Washington, full custody is often awarded when one parent isn’t able to contribute to the responsibilities with raising the child. For example, if a parent is physically incarcerated, doesn’t have financial stability, or is involved in situations that may potentially hurt the child, the court may grant one parent full or sole custody due to the circumstances.
On the other hand, the parents are often provided joint custody. Both parents assume the responsibilities that one needs to raise a healthy and happy child. Both parents need to be able to work together to maintain consistent communication and follow the directions of the court. Sometimes parents do not work well together. Then the court is sometimes more likely to award one parent the majority of the parenting time to reduce friction.
With any Washington joint custody case, both parents need to coordinate resources and activities to support the needs of the child. Because, the situation of your custody arrangements might vary. There may be supervised custody arrangements for one parent. Another option is a public meeting place for the child to be picked up and dropped off with the other parent.
The Basics of the Washington Child Custody Process
Custody arrangements are often subject to family court orders and decisions. However, this is not always the case. Even when the split is amicable, hiring a child custody lawyer can help. Navigate the troubled waters of your custody battle with legal help. Many parents are able to come together to find a solution that works well for the child. Often without needing to involve the court system.
According to the Washington Courts, contested child custody issues are subject to mandatory mediation. Specifically, a trial or a hearing will not be conducted to resolve any such issues until the parties have engaged in mediation, or the court has waived the mediation requirement. Mediation proceedings must be completed prior to a note for trial setting being filed.
Working with a custody lawyer as a mediator can help to advise you on the best type of custody arrangement. One that would work for the unique requirements and needs of your child. Hire an experienced Washington child custody lawyer to help you better understand your rights as a parent and avoid costly mistakes.
Work With an Experienced Washington Child Custody Lawyer
A child custody battle is a difficult and frustrating process. This is worse when there is animosity between you and the other parent. A Washington lawyer that specializes in this area can help to explain the entire process of the child custody battle and can help to make a positive impact on your case whether they mediate the arrangement or defend one party.
Your chances of seeing a custody agreement and visitation rights that are favorable for you will be much more likely with an attorneys help. If you’re looking to hire an experienced Washington child custody lawyer to help you understand your rights as a parent, you’ve come to the right place.
The attorneys we connect people with can increase your chances of getting the arrangement you seek, even in complex cases. Connect with an experienced lawyer in your area today. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Washington state lines.
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