Child Custody in Washington State
Washington State uses several types of criteria to determine child custody. Primarily, Washington State determines custody based on the best interests or welfare of the child. Washington State expects parents to present a parenting plan prior to a custody hearing. The court will either approve the plan or not. Parents who wish to file for child custody in Washington State should first become familiar with the custody statutes in this state.
Joint and Legal Child Custody in Washington State
In Washington State, one or both parents may be granted either legal or physical custody of a child. Legal custody will determine which parent may make day to day decisions for a child, such as health and medical decisions, as well as educational decisions. However, either parent may make emergency decisions for a child while the child is in his/her custody, regardless of the legal custody arrangement.
A court in Washington State will consider awarding both parents joint physical custody under the following circumstances:
- Each parent's participation in the decision-making of the child's life.
- Each parent's proximity to one another and how that proximity will affect decision-making for the child.
- Whether the parents can and will work with each other to make decisions for the child.
Child Custody in Washington State and Visitation Rights
In Washington State, a parent who is not granted custody of a child is entitled to reasonable visitation rights.
Visitation may be limited if a parent has done the following:
- Abandoned the child for an extended period of time
- Physically, sexually or emotionally abused the child
- Had a history of domestic violence
- Assaulted or sexually assaulted the child and caused bodily harm
- Has an adult sex offender conviction
Modification of Child Custody in Washington State
In Washington State, a parent who is seeking a modification of child custody should present a motion to modify custody and a decree that explains the facts supporting the modification. The parent seeking a modification should also serve it to the other party and the court. A parent will need to prove the following:
- Substantial change of circumstances in the current custody arrangement, and
- The custody modification is in the best interests of the child.
For more information child custody in Washington, speak with a qualified attorney in Washington or refer to the Revised Code of Washington.
How to Win Child Custody
Prove that you’re the Better Parent.
Who’s really the Better Parent in the Eyes of the Court?
If you're in the midst of a child custody battle, you probably want the courts to see you as the better parent.
However, it's important to note that in the eyes of the law, children have the right to be raised by both parents, except in cases where contact with one or both parents is deemed unsafe. Parents who are unable to come to an agreement about child custody will often leave the decision up to the courts, hoping that the judge will see the case from their point of view. You may be in this situation if:
- The existing custody arrangement is unsatisfactory to either (or both) of you.
- You and your ex cannot reach an agreeable compromise on your own.
- Either of you files a formal child custody motion, either pro se or with an attorney.
In such cases, it's natural to want the courts to see you as the "better parent." However, the family court judges don't view child custody decisions this way. Their objective isn't to label one of you the "good parent" and the other a "bad parent." Instead, the courts' focus is always on deciding what course of action most fully represents the best interests of the child.
As you prepare for your case, bear the following factors in mind:
- The courts generally prefer to allow both parents to actively participate in their children's lives.
- The courts are generally reluctant to get caught up in parenting styles and preferences.
- Anything that intentionally or unintentionally hinders your child's best interests could cause the courts to view you more critically.
Take time to view your actions and words through the lens of the court. Choose to do things that the judge will likely favor, i.e. like allowing scheduled visits, encouraging phone calls on off days, and being as flexible with your ex as you'd expect him (or her) to be with you. At the same time, avoid doing things that the judge will likely frown upon, and approach your next court date with confidence and enthusiasm, i.e. knowing that you, too, are doing what's best for your child!