When parents no longer wish to be together, they must establish a child custody arrangement to reflect their parenting decision. Some may be able to work out a plan among themselves, although many parents require intervention from the court. Whether you’re going through a divorce or legal separation, you need to establish a legally binding custody arrangement for the greater benefit of both you and your child. If you go through the family law court to determine child custody, rather than through negotiation, you’re handing these decisions over to the discretion of a judge.
Before discussing the key factors a court looks out for in determining custody, let’s explore some arrangement options.
Custody Options in Washington
It’s important to note that in the state of Washington, a child custody arrangement is referred to as a parenting plan. Custody is awarded in several different ways, depending on the needs of the child as well as the parenting abilities of both parties. In most cases, the court awards both parents shared custody, which means they will share parenting responsibilities (to a certain degree). When a parent is granted primary custody, the other parent can be granted visitation rights. However, extreme circumstances give the court reason to forbid contact.
Factors the Washington State Court Will Consider
Every custody issue brought to the court will be presented to a family law judge, who then aims to find a parenting plan that works in the best interest of the child. To do this, the judge considers several different factors, including:
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The child’s relationship with siblings or other individuals in each parent’s household
- Each parent’s ability to care for their child
- The physical, emotional, and mental health of each parent
- The child’s involvement in their community
- The child’s primary caretaker in the past
When the courts evaluate each parent’s ability to care for their child, they’ll consider their employment schedules, residential location, general lifestyle, home stability, as well as any history of domestic violence or abuse. The court also considers the child’s wishes regarding the parenting plan, given they are mature enough to make the decision.
Although these facts may help prepare you for the state’s custody system, it’s crucial to understand that each case is unique and differs from one another. If you’re in the midst of a divorce with children, separating from your child’s biological parent, or modifying an existing parenting plan, you must discuss your situation with an experienced attorney for tailored legal guidance.
Need a Parenting Plan Attorney? Contact Envision Law Today!
The attorneys at Envision Law understand the inseparable bond from a parent and their child, which is why we help our clients get the most out of their parenting plan. By having dependable legal representation from Washington’s top divorce and family law firm in your corner, you’ll have the best chance at preserving a healthy relationship with your child. For more information about how we can help, contact Envision Law today!