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If you are going through the breakup of a relationship or marriage and are concerned about child custody, you will need the help of a well-versed Washington child custody lawyer who can help determine what child custody arrangements are in the best interest of your child or children.

A qualified family attorney can help guide you through the custody process to reach a solution that is best for your family. They can then help you create a plan to successfully implement that solution.

Types of Child Custody in Washington

There are two types of child custody arrangements a court determines when setting a child custody order. Legal custody refers to the rights of parents to make important decisions about their child’s life and well-being. This can include decisions about the child’s religion, education, and medical care. However, both parents can make medical decisions in case of emergency, regardless of the legal custody determination.

Physical custody on the other hand controls where and with whom the child lives, as well as the percentage of time a child spends with each parent.

What Parenting Plans Cover

Courts in Washington typically expect parents to work together to propose a parenting plan to the court that outlines parenting time and custody decisions. This includes deciding where the child will reside during holidays, birthdays, school breaks, and weekends, and how he or she will be transported between parents.

Then, the court will assess the proposed plan to determine whether it is in the child’s best interest, and either approve or deny the plan as put forth. Even if both parents reach agreement on a parenting plan, the court will only approve the plan if the judge believes it represents the best interest of the child.

If the parents cannot reach an agreement, even after negotiations with a neutral mediator, the court will determine the terms of the child custody plan after a formal trial proceeding.

Factors in Child Custody Determinations

If the custody matters proceed to trial, the court will consider each parent’s ability to care and provide for the child, looking at factors such as:

  • A healthy and loving parent-child relationship
  • The parent’s ability to exercise good judgment
  • Financial stability
  • Record of meeting child’s needs, including hygiene, food, shelter, medical, clothing, and emotional needs
  • Ability to be involved in child’s education
  • Willingness to foster the child’s relationship with the other parent and not disparage the other parent

An experiencedWashington child custody lawyer can examine a parent’s situation and determine how these factors could affect their custody case.

Family Relationships and Community Involvement

The court may also consider the child’s unique family circumstances and relationships with others when deciding custody matters. Some of these factors include:

  • The child’s relationship with siblings and half-siblings, step-parents, grandparents, and extended family
  • The child’s involvement in their community activities, organizations, sports or church
  • The child’s own preferences, if they are mature enough

Maintaining relationships, providing continuity, and not disrupting every aspect of a child’s life following a divorce are also concerns the court may weigh when deciding custody.

Consulting a Washington Child Custody Attorney

Washington recognizes that both parents have rights when it comes to their children, and it is often in the best interest of a child to have quality time with and ongoing support from both parents.

However, each child custody situation is unique, and a skilled Washington child custody lawyer can help parents understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to child custody.

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