If you file for divorce in a Washington family court, you must resolve numerous issues regarding property division and other matters in order to finalize a settlement. Where children are concerned, the court will always have their best interests in mind when making child custody decisions.

You might be planning to request sole custody of your children. This would include both physical and legal custody. Legal custody means you would have the authority to make decisions on behalf of your kids while physical custody means they would live with you. When you request sole custody, you must convince the court that you have legitimate cause to do so.

Issues that often prompt a sole custody request

Perhaps you and your ex have a contentious relationship. This alone would not likely prompt the court’s decision to grant you sole custody of your children. The following list, however, includes numerous issues that might lead a judge to believe that children would be better off with one parent over the other:

  • Evidence to show that your ex is abusive
  • Reason to believe that your ex might neglect your children
  • Symptoms of mental illness
  • Proof that your ex has a substance abuse problem

A judge overseeing child custody proceedings wants to ensure children’s safety at all times. If your ex has emotionally or physically abused you or your kids, the court will want to further investigate the matter and may decide that sole custody would be best under the circumstances. Drug addiction, drunkenness, or signs of mental illness are also concerning issues that might convince the court that your kids should live with you full-time and that you should have the sole authority to make decisions regarding their education, health, faith, and other important matters.

If complications arise after your divorce

If the court determines that granting you sole custody would best serve your children’s interests, your ex must fully adhere to the terms of the agreement. Disregard for an existing court order can cause legal problems. For instance, if the court rules that your ex can only see your kids under supervision but he or she disobeys the order, the judge presiding over the case can hold him or her in contempt of court.

Children typically fare best when they are able to continue an active relationship with both parents. In certain situations, the court might determine that a case is atypical, and, therefore, sole custody would be best. If you believe that there is just cause to request sole custody in your case, you’ll want to gather as much evidence as possible to win the court’s favor.