WashingtonChild Custody Law
Washington Child Custody Guide :: Table of Contents
Child custody is defined as the guardianship over a child, which covers both physical custody and legal custody. In a child custody dispute the court may award joint custody to both parents or sole custody to a single parent.
Child custody cases in Washington can be either contested and resolved by court order, or noncontested and defined in a child custody agreement between the parents. A custody agreement or order will legally determine, at minimum, the following things:
- Where the child lives (physical custody)
- Who is involved in making parenting decisions (legal custody)
- How the visitation schedule with non-custodial parents or relatives is arranged
This page describes how a contested child custody case is handled in the Washington court system, and what factors are used to determine which parent gets custody.
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After a breakup or divorce in Washington, couples with children must come to a child custody agreement that describes which parent the children will live with, how visitation will be scheduled, and how the non-custodial parent will pay child support.
Some of the factors considered by Washington in child custody cases include the child's wishes, willingness of the parent to cooperate with their partner and any history of domestic violence.
How does Custody Work, and What Factors are Considered in a Custody Proceeding?The child's residential schedule shall be consistent.
The court will consider the following factors in determining custody:
- The child's relationship with each parent
- The consenting agreements of the parties involved
- Each parent's overall defined parenting functions
- whether a parent has taken greater responsibility in parenting than the other
- The overall needs of the child
- The child's relationship with siblings and other adults, including the child's involvement with their physical surroundings, school, and other activities
- The wishes of the parents and the wishes of the child (if sufficiently mature to come to a reasoned preference)
- Each parent's employment schedule, making accommodations corresponding to those schedules.
In cases where the court has made a finding of domestic violence or child abuse, the court may not require a victim of domestic violence or the custodial parent of a victim of child abuse to disclose to the other party information that would reasonably be expected to enable the perpetrator of domestic violence or child abuse to obtain previously undisclosed information regarding the name, location, or address of a victim's residence, employer, or school at an initial hearing,
In cases where domestic violence or child abuse has been alleged but the court has not yet made a finding, the court will provide the party alleging domestic violence or child abuse with the opportunity to prove the abuse with evidence before ordering the disclosure of information that would reasonably be expected to enable the alleged perpetrator of abuse to obtain any previously undisclosed information regarding name, location, address, employer, or school.
The court will carefully weigh the safety interests of the victim before issuing orders which would require disclosure in a future hearing if abuse is involved.
If the parents are on amicable terms they may agree to custody terms in a parenting agreement between themselves, or via a mediator. If child custody is disputed, however, they will have to receive a child custody order from a Washington judge, who will attempt to make a custody decision that is in the "best interests of the child".
In the state of Washington, a number of factors are taken into account by the courts when determining who gets child custody. This section describes Washington's custody factors, considerations, and presumptions when evaluating a custody order.
Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating child custody in the state of Washington?
Washington has a list of statutory factors that are considered by the court when determining a custody order. This list may include factors such as the child's age, the living situation of each parent, any history of abuse or neglect from either parent, etc. Although there is a statutory list of factors, consider other factors at its discretion depending on the particular circumstances of the case.
Do judges in the state of Washington favor joint custody?
Judges in Washington are authorized to order either joint or single-parent custody of a child subject to a custody dispute.
Courts in Washington do not have a presumption in favor joint custody orders when evaluating child custody. The judge will evaluate the specifics of the custody dispute to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
Do Washington courts encourage parents to cooperate together to raise the child?
Washington courts favor awarding custody to a cooperative parent who is willing to work together with the other parent regarding child visitation, scheduling, child support, and other co-parenting matters. Washington law favors co-parenting as being in the best interests of the child, and the courts will favor a parent willing to cooperate over a parent who attempts to alienate their child from the other parent.
Are the child's wishes considered when determining custody in the state of Washington?
In Washington, the court does consider the child's reasonable wishes when determining which parent wins custody. The judge may take the child's age, maturity, and judgement into consideration when considering the child's custody preference.
Do Washington courts consider domestic violence when determining custody?
Washington has laws that explicitly permit the consideration of domestic violence in conjunction with child custody. This may mean that domestic violence is a statutory factor in custody determinations, that the court has a presumption against custody for abusers, or that special procedural considerations are imposed in cases involving domestic violence.
Do the courts in the state of Washington have the right to hire an attorney or Guardian Ad Litem to represent the child?
Washington has statutory authority for appointment of a guardian ad litem or attorney specifically to represent the child in a custody case. This person advocates for the best interest of the child, and is tasked with investigating the family situation and advising the court what custody situation would be in the best interests of the child.