How Do Courts Determine Who Gets Custody?
When parents no longer wish to remain together, they need to establish a child custody arrangement to reflect their parenting decisions. Some parents may be able to work out a plan amongst themselves, but many parents require additional intervention from the court. Whether you are going through a divorce or not, you will need to establish a legally binding custody arrangement for the benefit of both you and your child. If you need to go through the family law court to determine child custody, rather than through negotiation or mediation, you are putting these decisions into the hands of a judge.
Before you go to court, find out how Washington state courts determine who gets child custody.
Different Custody Options
In the state of Washington, a child custody arrangement is referred to as a parenting plan. Custody will be awarded in one of several different ways, depending on the needs of the child and the parenting abilities of both parties. In most cases, the court will choose to award both parents shared custody, which means they will share parenting responsibilities in one way or another. However, the court may sometimes decide to award one parent primary custody. When one parent is granted primary custody, the other parent will be granted visitation rights, unless extreme circumstances give the court reason to forbid any contact.
Factors the Court Will Consider
Any custody issue brought to the court will be handled by a family law judge, who will aim to find a parenting plan that works in the best interest of the child.
In order to determine the child’s best interest, the judge will consider several different factors, including:
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The child’s relationship with their siblings or other individuals in each parent’s household
- The child’s involvement in their community
- Which parent has acted as the child’s primary caretaker in the past
- Each parent’s physical, emotional, and mental health
- Each parent’s ability to care for their child
When the court looks at each parent’s ability to care for the child, they will consider the parents’ work schedules, locations, lifestyle, home stability, and any history of domestic violence or abuse. The court will also consider the child’s wishes regarding the parenting plan if that child is considered mature enough to make a decision.
Although these facts can help prepare you for the child custody system, it is important to understand that each custody case is unique and may differ. If you are going through a divorce with children, separating from your child’s parent, or modifying an existing parenting plan, it is crucial that you discuss your situation with an experienced child custody attorney for advice particular to your case.Contact McKinley Irvin at our Washington office to discuss your child custody case with our family law attorneys.