Legal issues involving children, like child custody, are often extremely emotional and challenging waters to navigate. Parents want what’s best for their children — but when they don’t agree on what that looks like, court intervention may be necessary. However, legal restrictions differ from state to state, and it’s crucial to be aware of the laws surrounding child custody wherever it is you call home.

Whether you’re amidst a divorce, a separation, or you’re renegotiating a long-standing custody arrangement, understanding your rights as a father in the state of Washington is of chief importance as you move forward.

Custody Rights in Washington State

In the State of Washington, the legal arrangement for child custody and visitation are collectively referred to as parenting plans. Parenting plans should be particular about where the child resides, which parent the child lives with, as well as who will make legal decisions for them. The parenting plan should also outline how any future disagreements between the parents is to be handled.

When two parents marry in the State of Washington, custody defaults to the mother of the child, although unmarried fathers can have the same parenting rights as married fathers if they establish paternity. Both parents can agree on the parenting plan with the help of an attorney or even a mediator if necessary. However, if the parents do not reach an agreement, they may choose to pursue a court-ordered parenting plan.

How Do the Courts Generally Side?

For better or worse, there’s a public perception when it comes to divorce and child custody that wives, mothers, and women in general always have the upper hand. On a practical level, many men may feel that they’re at a disadvantage in these areas and that their rights get overlooked in the legal process.

In the law’s eyes, mothers and fathers have equal rights, meaning each parent has the same claim to custody as the other. Under Washington State child custody laws, judges who sign off on a couple’s divorce are required to consider the best interests of the child as the guiding principle when it comes to deciding custody issues. Even if both parents agree to custody arrangements, the judge will review it and ensure it’s in the children’s best interests.

What Can Affect a Fathers’ Custody?

A parent’s visitation may be limited if they are found guilty of the following:

  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of the child
  • Assault of the child
  • A history of domestic violence
  • An adult sex offender conviction
  • Abandoned the child for an extended period

Contact Envision Family Law for Help with Child Custody

If you require additional guidance in understanding your rights as a father when it comes to child custody, turn to the experienced legal experts at Envision Family Law. Our attorneys have the resources needed to make your parenting plan as fair as possible, so you can continue to have a positive influence in your child’s life. Contact us today to consult with one of our attorneys about child custody arrangements.