Washington Child Custody Laws

Washington Child Custody Issues & Resources

Washington Child Custody

Washington child custody will be awarded based upon the best interests of the child. In determining what parent, or parents, should have decision-making authority, a Washington Court will consider: 
  • if both parents agree to mutual decision-making;

  • the existence of any physical or sexual child or spouse abuse, neglect or abandonment; 

  • the history of participation of each parent in the decision-making process; 

  • whether the parents have demonstrated an ability and desire to cooperate in the decision-making process; 

  • the parents geographical proximity to each other, to the extent that it would affect their ability to make timely mutual decisions.

In determining the residency component of child custody, a Washington Court will consider:

  •  the strength, nature, and stability of the child's relationship with each parent, including the parent's performance of daily parental functions; 

  • any spouse or child abuse or neglect or substance abuse;

  • the history of participation of each parent in child-rearing; 

  • the wishes of the parents;

  • the wishes of the child, if of sufficient age and maturity to express an opinion; 

  • the child's relationship with siblings and other significant family members; 

  • any agreement between the parties; and

  • each parent's employment schedule. The first factor is to be given the most weight.

A Washington Court will only order an equal-time alternating residential provision if: 

  • there is no child or spouse abuse, neglect, or abandonment, or substance abuse; 

  • the parents have agreed to such provisions; 

  • there is a history of shared parenting and cooperation;

  • the parents are available to each other, especially in terms of geographic location; and 

  • the provisions are in the best interests of the child.

In filing a petition for dissolution of marriage, the party must include a proposed parenting plan if the parties have a minor child. The parenting plan should contain provisions for

  • dispute resolution;

  • a residential schedule for the child; 

  • allocation of decision-making authority relating to the child.

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