A Skilled Child Custody Lawyer Serving King and Snohomish County
You want to put your children first and protect them from whatever disagreements and battles you may have with their other parent, but, sadly, child custody is often the most contentious issue in a divorce. In Washington, as in every other state in the U.S., the “best interest of the child” is paramount for courts making decisions regarding custody and other factors critical to your child’s well-being.
As family law attorneys with vast experience in child custody issues, we understand that it can be difficult and frustrating to feel that a judge may be the one to determine your child’s future. As attorneys representing you, we are as much a voice for your desire to be a part of your child’s life as we are a voice for your child.
Your child deserves a happy, healthy, and loving relationship with you, and it is our goal to get the best possible outcome for you and your child.
How custody is determined in Washington
Although the term “child custody” is still common among lay persons, the courts now refer to it as a “parenting plan.” The parenting plan is a legal document that attempts to take into account all factors regarding your child’s welfare and the functions for which parents are responsible following a divorce, including providing a stable home environment; providing food, clothing, and health care; protecting and providing education for the child; and helping the child have appropriate and healthy relationships with friends and family members. It requires a specific residential schedule (including holidays and school breaks), transportation arrangements, and decide which parent will be responsible for making major decisions regarding everything from medical care to education (or if parents will make decisions jointly) and the method for resolving parenting disputes.
Unlike child support, which is based largely on a specific calculation, factors that the court will examine when determining what is in your child’s best interest include:
- The mental stability and physical health of each parent
- The parent’s schedule and lifestyle
- The child’s relationship and bond with each parent
- The child’s relationship and bond with other members of each household
- Each parent’s history of responsibility in raising the child
- Each parent’s likely future ability to responsibly raise the child
- The child’s history and preference for location, community, and school
- Depending on the child’s age, his or her preferences
- Any risk factors, including a history of parent’s substance abuse or addiction or history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse
Types of child custody
Courts recognize, as do many divorcing couples, that children do best when they continue a have a strong, healthy, and loving relationship with both parents.
There are still several different child custody arrangements, and these are based on the parenting plan and the best interest of the child. They include:
- Physical custody: The term “physical custody: refers to with whom the child lives and is supervised by (the “residential parent”) and the other parent is granted visitation. In joint physical custody, the child spends significant time (although not necessarily equal, or 50/50 time) living with and being supervised by each parent.
- Legal custody: This term refers to which parent will make day-to-day decisions regarding the child’s health care and education; however, either parent can make a decision in cases of an emergency. Legal custody may be sole or joint, depending on what is in the best interest of the child.
- Sole custody: Sole custody in matters including legal and physical custody is generally reserved when one parent has a history of domestic violence, drug/alcohol abuse or addiction, is a convicted sex offender, is incarcerated, lives out-of-state, or has been absent in the child’s life.
- Joint custody: Joint custody is an option when both parents show a willingness to cooperatively handle parenting disputes, and when it is in the child’s best interest. There may be both joint legal and physical custody, or one parent may have sole (primary) physical custody while there is joint legal custody.
Protecting your rights as a parent and ensuring your child’s well-being
To learn more about our strategic, thoughtful, and compassionate approach to your child custody matters, please contact us online or call our office at (425) 275-5000 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.