Every parent facing a divorce worries about what will happen next. Envision Family Law has come together to answer a few of the most pressing, frequent questions facing our clients.
How does child custody work in Washington?
Washington courts prefer that parents adhere to a parenting plan negotiated independently of the court system. When parents fall into a dispute over their child’s living situation and cannot resolve it themselves, the court looks at various factors in search of what is in the child’s best interests.
What are the factors for best interest?
Washington law considers what “best maintains a child’s emotional growth, health and stability, and physical care.” This is general guidance, however, and a court will investigate:
- Living conditions
- Educational availability
- Emotional support
- Financial resources
- Consistency of lifestyle
Whatever allows the child’s life to continue as normally as possible is what the court will view as best.
Can I get full custody?
Once, courts assumed that the mother was the better parent and almost always awarded her full custody. Now courts tend to view a harmonious, reasonable joint custody as the optimal condition for children of divorcing parents. It is possible to get full, sole custody of your children. However, you would have to prove that the other parent poses a significant risk of danger or neglect.
Can child custody agreements change?
Parenting plans, as Washington calls them, are not set in stone. When a person’s circumstances change, they absolutely can seek a change in the parenting plan. Events most likely to require custody agreement changes are:
- Changes in employment
- Changes in living situation
- Changes in marital status
- New children
However, there are many other realities.
Can grandparents get custody?
We wrote recently on grandparent custody issues. This process is called 3rd party guardianship, and it is possible; however, it is not simple or assured.
Everyone’s situation is different
Your unique set of circumstances will set you apart from everyone else. You may fall into one of the many situations that make for different approaches. The only way to know is to reach out to an attorney you trust.