The reasons for a sole custody order will vary from case to case; some common reasons for a sole custody order are that the other parent is incarcerated, has drug or alcohol problems, lives out of state, the role of domestic violence, or is otherwise absent in the child’s life. In other cases, one parent may have just always been primarily responsible for a child’s needs, and a sole custody order reflects that reality. Whatever the case may be, a court has the discretion to award sole custody of a child to one parent or the other during divorce or paternity proceedings.

Under Washington law, sole or full legal custody means that only one parent has the authority given by the court to make major decisions about the child. This includes decisions about a child’s upbringing, such as educational, medical, and religious decisions. When only one parent has the power to make these decisions, that parent has sole legal custody. In other cases, parents share this responsibility through a joint legal custody arrangement.

Washington law also clearly defines physical custody, or parenting time, as the amount of time that the child spends with each parent. Various factors can impact the parenting time in a particular case, but factors such as the distance between the parents’ residences, whether the child is in school, and the parents’ work schedule. In some cases, a parent will have sole physical custody, which means that the child lives with that parent most of the time, and visits with the other parent as agreed or according to a set schedule ordered by the court.

Custody arrangements can vary widely. While one parent has sole physical custody, the parents still may share joint legal custody. In some relatively rare situations, one parent has both sole physical and legal custody, such as where the other parent is uninvolved in the child’s life or lives a long distance away. A court might also award sole custody to a parent if the other parent has been abusive or neglectful in some way.

We know how difficult and complicated child custody cases can be, especially when circumstances necessitate that you seek sole custody of your child. Contact Pacific Northwest Family Law today and we will show you how we can help with your Washington family law case. Our attorneys focus their practice primarily on family law, so we are sure to have the skills that you need for proper representation in your custody case. We are here to answer all of your questions, calm your concerns, and help you through the often difficult process of contested child custody, child support, and family law cases.