In my experience as a child custody lawyer for the past 40 years, I have handled hundreds of family law cases and resolved many child custody disputes. Many of my clients have similar family law questions so I thought it would be helpful to provide a general explanation of how Washington State handles custody matters.
A Few Basic Definitions
Child custody issues begin when the parents of a minor child separate. This can happen through a divorce or legal separation and the custody issues must be resolved as part of the legal proceedings. If the couple was never married and simply break up, they also can go through a similar process.
Child custody disputes arise when the parents are unable to agree about issues involving their joint children. These disputes can cause emotional and mental stress, and the children may be put in the middle of a contentious legal case.
Joint custody allows both parents to share parenting time, decision making responsibilities, and financial obligations. This requires parental cooperation regarding the children’s issues.
Parenting plans are the legal documents used in Washington State to memorialize custody and visitation terms among many other issues. For more details about Washington’s parenting plans, you can read an in-depth explanation in this article.
Factors Considered by the Court in a Custody Dispute
If the parents are unable to reach an agreement about custody and visitation, Washington State family laws required them to attend mediation. If they can’t reach an agreement through mediation, they go to trial where the judge eventually creates a parenting plan that binds the parents.
All family law trial judges must consider the child’s best interests when determining parenting plans. Some of the factors affecting the best interests standard include whether the parents can:
- Create, maintain, and facilitate a stable, loving relationship with the child
- Provide for the child’s basic needs
- Be involved with the child’s schooling
- Financially provide for essentials such as food, medical care, housing and clothing for the child and
- Support the child’s relationship with the other parent.
Other factors which a child custody lawyer should present for the judge’s consideration include:
- Each parent’s physical and mental medical history
- The child’s age, gender, and medical history
- Each parent’s personal habits such as excessive drinking or smoking
- The child’s opinion about his preferred home if the child is deemed mature enough to support his preference
- The strength of the bond between the child and each parent
- The parents’ requests and wishes
- How much the child will have to adjust if she is forced to move to a new school, city, or state
- The current status quo and the child’s quality of life, and
- Whether either parent has attempted to alienate the other parent through false or malicious charges of child abuse.
Parents involved in a custody dispute must understand the serious consequences and how much is at stake. When your child’s future is in jeopardy, you need an experienced child custody lawyer who understands Washington State family law and how to present the best case possible on your behalf.
At Davies Law, we have provided four decades of family law expertise to hundreds of satisfied clients. Call us today at (425) 259-2755 or complete our simple form to set up a free initial consultation to discuss your specific circumstances and how we can help. We also offer virtual meetings if you prefer.