Although family courts historically may have given preference to mothers in awarding child custody, times have changed significantly. For far too many years, most people, including family court judges, assumed that the mother should have custody of the child and the father should pay child support and alimony to the mother. In today’s world, however, the roles of men and women in the home and in workplace have changed tremendously. Fathers are increasingly seeking and receiving primary custody of their children. Shared parenting, or a situation in which the child spends approximately equal amounts of time with each parent, also has become far more common than in the past. In fact, many courts are beginning to consider a shared parenting plan as the best type of arrangement for children whose parents are involved in a divorce, legal separation, or paternity action.
The deciding factor for child custody or parenting plans is the best interests of the child, rather than simply following the traditional roles of the mother and father with respect to caring for their child. The assumption that mothers should care for children and fathers should pay the bills no longer exists in family court. Although far more mothers have primary custody of their children than fathers, and far more fathers than mothers are ordered to pay child support, at least from a statistical perspective, there is no guarantee that a family court judge always will award custody to a mother.
A family court judge in making a custody determination looks at several different issues that relate to the child’s best interests. For example, relevant factors may include the stability of each parent’s residence, the ability of each parent to meet a child’s medical and educational needs, any history of domestic violence, any history or ongoing usage of drugs or alcohol, and the physical distance between the parties’ residences. These are only a few of the factors that a court can consider in making a child custody decision.
At Pacific Northwest Family Law, we know how stressful, emotional, and complex child custody proceedings can be. If you are facing a child custody case, whether you are mother or father, you need the advice and guidance of an attorney with a background in family law. Contact our office today, schedule a meeting with an experienced Washington child custody attorney at Pacific Northwest Family Law, and learn how we can help you with your divorce case.