Custody Takes a Team Approach
You may remember when one parent would be awarded full custody of children, and the other would get minimal visitation. As times change, so does the need for both parents to remain active in the child’s life, barring any allegations of abuse or an unsafe home.
Due to this, the process for determining child custody is similar whether you are married or not, as courts initiate their discretion and provide the answer that is in the child’s best interest at all costs.
What Does Custody Look Like Now?
In the state of Washington, a Parenting Plan is typically put together for the parents of each child. Within this parenting plan, one parent is typically assigned the role of primary residential parent, and the other is labeled as the parent with “residential time.”
The parenting plan also stipulates essential topics such as the education and religious choices of the children and their necessary medical care (especially if the child requires ongoing special medical care) and stipulates who has the majority of the decision-making rights for the children or if that role is mutually shared.
What Characteristics Are Reviewed To Determine Custody?
Both parents’ roles in their children’s lives will be closely reviewed. Courts will want to learn more about how each parent relates to their children now and since birth. Were they both in an active role with the children?
Were they both helpful and consistent regarding helping with homework, school questions, attending sporting events, or other extracurricular activities?
Were both parents available to take the children to doctor’s appointments? Is the relationship of both parents strong with their children?
Other aspects that are considered are the locations of each parent. If it doesn’t make sense to transport the children back and forth due to the long distance, most courts will choose a varied schedule for visits with the other parent for residential time, as it’s in the best interest of the child to not have to spend more time being transported than with their parent.
What connections do the children have with siblings or other immediate family members? Is there a family structure that the children benefit greatly from being around? The environment surrounding the children will be closely scrutinized to determine what is in the child’s best interest.
What Specific Rights Do I Have as a Father in Washington?
If you are the child’s legal father, you have the same rights in Washington as the children’s mother. These rights can include the right to have a relationship with your child and the right to have consistent contact with them unless the courts determine there are valid reasons that you should not be a part of your child’s life.
You have the right to representation and a fair trial with an unbiased judge and court system.
You have a right to contest allegations made against you. With the help of an experienced attorney, you can prepare for any accusations that you feel may come your way or that are of concern so you can assertively address and overcome them.
You have the right to advance notice of all court hearings regarding custody, and you have the right to participate. Those with hearing impairments or those requiring an interpreter can also be assisted to remain active in the court hearings.
What Can I Do To Prepare Myself For Custody Determination?
Reach out to a capable and determined family law attorney. Ensure that they fully understand your questions and concerns and help them to paint an accurate picture of your life with your children.
Be upfront and honest about concerns or issues you may have had in the past so you can accurately prepare to overcome them if they arise in court. Be prompt in your communication and meetings with your attorney to ensure you capitalize on the time you need to prepare for court hearings.
If you are assigned a caseworker, ensure that they have updated contact information for you and that you can be reached when they need to ask you questions or update you on what they need from you.
Attend all hearings to stay abreast of the proceedings and the status. Obey all court orders. Regardless of your feelings on what rules may be given to you, it’s essential to comply to show that you are capable and willing to do what it takes to remain in your child’s life in the future.
Remain in contact with your children to the best of your ability. Document instances where you are barred from speaking to them or seeing them in the recent past and during the court process. If one parent inhibits the other from being a part of the child’s life, it can result in less time with that parent in the future, as the courts will likely see those actions as not what’s best for the children.
Your Tireless Advocate
We pride ourselves on having an honest and aggressive approach to our clients. Determining child custody is never an easy feeling. Your children are one of the most critical aspects of your life. We understand and respect that and are prepared to become a fierce advocate for you and your family, so you can remain the advocate your children need.
Contact our office today at (509) 572-3700 to learn how we can help. We work with our clients to attempt to resolve issues outside of the courtroom when possible, and if that is not the best option for you and your children, we are prepared to aggressively fight for what you deserve inside the courtroom as well. Call us today.