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Child Custody

One of the most contentious issues in any divorce proceeding with children involved is which parent will be the children’s primary custodial parent. Before discussing the standards for determining custody and support in Washington State, it’s worthwhile to explain what custody generally entails. Even in the general sense though, child custody considerations are numerous and complex. To understand how your case fits within the framework outlined below, give our Bellevue child custody attorneys a call today.

It’s both parent’s obligation to help pay for the regular needs of raising the child or children of the marriage. So how much should you expect to pay in support? This is a difficult question to answer without specific details, but the section on child support below can provide you with a good picture of what considerations are important in determining one parent’s support obligation.

Custody of the children from a marriage can either be sole or joint. Sole custody is when the child(ren) of the marriage live exclusively with one of the parents, and that parent makes all decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. This generally points to two broad categories, with these being physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the parent who the child lives with for most of the time. Legal custody refers to the right and obligation of the custodial parent to make decisions regarding how the child is raised.

Before going into the specific provisions that define Washington State child custody and support law, it is important to reiterate how much case-specific details matter. This article can act as a solid overview to get you acquainted with the law surrounding child custody but will most likely leave you with many questions. Our child custody attorneys in Bellevue are experts in both the relevant law and in explaining how the law applies to the individual case. Even if you are unsure if you need or can afford an attorney, call our Bellevue child custody attorneys today for a free consultation. Doing so could mean the difference between taking an active role in your children’s lives versus rarely seeing them.

Washington State Child Custody and Parenting Plans

In Washington State, the enumeration of duties and responsibilities each parent has to their child is expressed through the Parenting Plan. The only responsibility not considered in the parenting plan is the child support obligation one parent is to pay to the other. Determinations related to the financial support of the child are reflected in the Child Support Order and attached worksheets, which we’ll discuss a bit later.

As per RCW 26.09.184(2), the parenting plan will provide rules for the resolution of future disputes between the parties, each parent’s share of decision-making authority, and the residential schedule for the child or children. For the purposes of this article, I will not go in-depth on the different dispute resolution options. Briefly though, the parties must decide which body, either the court, a mediator, or an arbitrator, they will go to when disputes arise.

Before going into greater detail, it is worthwhile to take a step back and briefly discuss the overarching theory the courts use when making determinations involving children. Expressed in RCW 26.09.002, the court’s objective when making determinations involving the children is to maintain the best interest of the child(ren). The best interests of the child are defined by the arrangement that best secures their emotional growth, health, and physical care. Further, these considerations are best secured when the child’s routine is maintained.

In practice, the application of this theory means the court begins its analysis from the standpoint that it is in the best interests of the child(ren) to have both parents present and active in their lives. Thus, there are many highly specific provisions governing when a parent’s residential time or decision-making authority can be limited. As with other considerations related to family law, the courts have a high degree of discretion when making these determinations. Although broadly outlined in the relevant statutes of the Revised Code of Washington, the specific details of each individual case inject a large amount of variability.

If you’re curious about how the court will view the specifics of your case, call our Bellevue child custody attorneys today for a free consultation. Our attorneys will help you understand the complex body of laws that are applicable to your case, which will help you determine the feasibility of your desired-outcomes and what to do next.

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