Custody Disputes In Washington
Child custody disputes are common in a divorce, but that does not make them any easier to deal with. You care about your child and you want to be a part of his or her life. At Twyford Law Office we work on behalf of our clients to help them get the access to their children that they deserve. We understand how difficult it can be to find yourself in this situation, and we want you to know that you have our support. We are your legal team – here to make sure you get the outcome you want and need from your child custody case.
The Parenting Plan
In Washington, a parenting plan is the outline that defines who the child lives with, how decisions are made about the child and how parents can resolve disagreements over the child in the future. Ideally, you and your spouse will come to an agreement about a parenting plan before going before the judge. If you can work with your spouse to create a plan, then the judge will try to use the plan you created to make a decision.
Of course, sometimes, it is difficult to reach an agreement with your spouse. If you and your spouse cannot agree on a plan, the judge will need to make a decision on what is best for the child. Once the judge decides on a parenting plan, you and your spouse must abide by it.
What Happens When One Parent Refuses to Follow a Parenting Plan?
If one parent violates the rules of a parenting plan, the other parent will need to go back to court. If the court determines the other parent violated the parenting plan they may be held accountable for attorney costs, fines and may even may be subject to contempt (jail) depending on the severity of the parental plan violation.
Divorced parents in Washington State should be aware that parenting plans are a separate issue from child support arrangements. If one parent violates a parenting plan, the other parent cannot stop paying child support as a way to force the violating parent to comply. The best way to address parenting plan violations quickly and legally is to contact a Washington family law attorney who will take your case to court and expedite a satisfactory resolution to any parental plan violation.
Custody Laws in Washington
Under Washington State child custody laws, a judge signing a divorce decree is obligated to put the best interests of the child or children first and foremost above anything else. Even though both parents and their attorneys may agree on a parenting plan, the judge will automatically review the divorce papers and parenting plan to ensure they have considered the child’s best interests.
When determining custody arrangements complicated by a custody dispute, family court judges will closely examine the following:
- The ability of either parent to maintain a stable, loving relationship with their children
- The ability of either parent to provide for the child’s needs–shelter, clothing, food, education, etc.
- The ability of either parent to continuously exercise sensible judgment when making decisions concerning the children
- The ability of either parent to provide steady financial support for the children
- Additionally, a judge may talk to children of divorcing parents about where they wish to live if they are old enough to relate their wishes logically. Judges may also consider a child’s relationships with siblings and how involved the child is with the community in which they currently live.
Divorced parents will need to create a specific schedule outlining where children will reside during vacations, on weekends and holidays. This schedule should include details about transportation of children to locations described in the parenting plan. Some factors considered by family court judges when making decisions about a parenting plan and child custody arrangements include parenting skills of the parent during the marriage, which parent made the majority of decisions about the children and past encounters with law enforcement. Parenting plans may also name certain third parties who represent mediators or counselors responsible for helping a divorced couple resolve unexpected disputes involving child custody arrangements.
Doing What Is Best For The Child
The state of Washington’s primary concern is the welfare of the child. Whatever parenting plan the judge decides will be designed to ensure that the child is cared for. The judge will try to determine the best way for the needs of the child to be met, including emotional needs, financial support, education and basic concerns like food and health care. The wishes of the child will also be considered by the judge in making a parenting plan.
In most cases, the ideal plan involves both parents sharing responsibility for the child. While the child may live with one parent or the other, decision-making and support are shared by both. But there are sometimes exceptions to this standard. If one parent is found to be unfit by the judge to take part in one or more of these duties, the judge will create a parenting plan that reflects this.
Fighting Hard For Custody Of Your Child
When you are involved in a custody dispute, you need an attorney who will fight tenaciously on your behalf. Whether you are attempting to retain a part in your child’s life as a non-custodial parent, or you believe that you should be the one to take responsibility for your child, Twyford Law Office will do all that we can to achieve the outcome you desire.
Please contact Twyford Law Office today to schedule a free initial consultation concerning your child custody dispute. Our legal team is standing by to answer your questions and help you understand your options.