There are a number of different factors that a judge must consider in making a child custody order and parenting plan. However, absent a showing of harm, a court cannot use the sexual orientation of a parent as part of the reasoning for its custody decision.
Under Washington law, the court must remain neutral as to the issue of the parent’s sexual orientation or lifestyle choices, focusing instead on the child’s needs. Likewise, an expert such as a guardian ad litem or therapist also must keep neutral on the issue; if the court relies on their biased opinions, then the court is impermissibly considering a parent’s sexual orientation as a factor in its custody decision. The Washington statute concerning parenting evaluations even specifically states that the psychologist performing the evaluation cannot discriminate against a parent based on his or her sexual orientation.
The Washington Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that considering a parent’s sexual orientation as a factor in custody decisions is a violation of the U.S. constitution. This ruling eliminates a loophole that previously existed in Washington law, which arguably allowed a court to choose a heterosexual parent over a homosexual parent.
No matter what issues arise in your child custody proceedings, however, we are here to help. The lawyers at Pacific Northwest Family Law have handled countless child custody cases throughout the years, as well as cases involving all other family law-related matters. Contact an experienced Washington child custody attorney today so that we can explain your rights and responsibilities about child custody or child support determinations in the state of Washington.