Child Custody Decisions in Washington

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What Considerations are Made in Washington Regarding Child Custody Orders?

All decisions made regarding child custody arrangements must give priority to the child’s best interests over the parent’s desires. In Washington, courts seek to issue a custody order that only minimally alters the existing relationship patterns between parent and child. Furthermore, the arrangement should protect the child from physical and emotional harm. If a mutual agreement is not reached, the court will exercise its authority to render a suitable a custody order.

What factors are considered when determining custody?

Washington courts can consider a variety of factors in order to develop a plan which bests serves the child’s interests. Some of these factors include:
• Whether a parent has previously assumed more responsibility in child rearing (this factor is given the most weight)
• The nature of the child’s relationship to each parent
• The child’s emotional needs as well as their mental and educational development
• The child’s relationship with other individuals such as siblings or community leaders such as a teacher
• The employment arrangements of each parent- the order should facilitate contact based upon such arrangements
• The preferences of the child provided that they are sufficiently mature to express their own desires

Does Washington custody law contain any unique provisions?

Yes- concerning the residential and visitation schedule, a Washington judge can order that the child alternate between the parent’s households for equal time intervals. This may done if it is in the child’s interests, and it can be proven that:
• There is no prior history of abuse or domestic violence, nor instances of willful neglect by either parent
• The parents consent to such arrangement and have knowingly stipulated to it by agreement
• The parties are available for such an alternating schedule and travel considerations will not present a conflict

Should I Obtain a Washington Lawyer for my Child Custody Dispute?

A Washington lawyer can be indispensable in any custody hearing, as the laws governing family law can be complex and interwoven with other areas of law. An attorney can assist you in determining which factors will support your claims under the law. This is especially true if a mutual agreement cannot be reached.

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Last Modified: 07-28-2010 03:55 PM PDT

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