All decisions made regarding child custody arrangements must give priority to the child’s best interests. In Washington, courts will generally issue custody orders that only minimally alters the existing relationship patterns between parent and child. Most arrangements are agreements between the parties; however, a mutual agreement can not reached, the court will exercise its authority to render a suitable a custody order.

What Factors Are Considered When Determining Custody?

As mentioned above, Washington courts can consider a variety of factors when developing a plan that serves the child’s best interests. Some of these factors include:

• How much responsibility a parent has assumed in raising the child
• The nature of the child’s relationship to each parent
• The child’s emotional, mental, physical, and educational needs
• The employment of each parent
• The preferences of the child

Does Washington State Custody Law Contain Any Unique Provisions?

Yes. 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 agreed to it
• The parties are available for an alternating schedule and travel considerations will not present a conflict

Should I Speak to a Lawyer?

A Washington child custody lawyer can be indispensable in any custody hearing, as the laws governing family law can be complex and interwoven with other areas of law. A child custody lawyer 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.