Can I Modify My Child Custody Arrangement in Washington State Without Going to Court?

Posted On May 24, 2024 Child Custody

Can you modify a parenting plan without going to court? The short answer is yes, you can create an enforceable child custody agreement without court, as long as both parents agree on the terms. The court will still be involved to some degree; it’s just that you won’t have to actually go to court to modify your arrangement.

What Is “Custody”?

Child custody doesn’t just involve the child’s physical custody. It also involves legal custody, meaning who will make critical decisions about the child’s life after the divorce. That means where they will attend school, whether they can try out for the football team, whether they will go to church, and more.

There Must Be a Significant Change in Circumstances

Washington family law requires a change in circumstances before you can modify child custody arrangements. Part of the reason for this rule is to avoid clogging the courts with modification requests that represent whims rather than actual needs.

Below is a list of some of the changes in circumstances that will likely justify a modification in child custody arrangements:

  • A major change in at least one parent’s living arrangements;
  • Any issue that affects the child’s well-being or safety;
  • Relocation of at least one parent (moving out of or into town, for example);
  • Changes in the child’s needs as they mature.

There are many other factors that might justify a change in custody arrangements.

 

Both Parents Have To Agree in Writing on the Terms of Custody

If you want to avoid going to court to modify custody arrangements, both parents must agree in writing on every aspect of custody that is being changed.  

Try Mediation

Mediation can be a very effective way to break a stalemate concerning the modification of child custody. Mediators cannot force anyone to agree, but they can use their skills to facilitate an agreement that might have been impossible otherwise. This can keep you out of court.

 

Drafting and Signing the Agreement

To stand a chance at winning judicial approval of your request to modify child custody, you need to draft a parenting plan that covers all the bases. Your best bet is to have a Washington family lawyer draft it for you since a single error could result in a denial of your request.

To render the agreement enforceable, you must sign the agreement, have the other parent sign it, and submit it to the court clerk. Once the judge approves it, it becomes enforceable.

 

The Judge Has to Approve Your Parenting Plan

As always, the “best interests of the child” prevails over the best interests of either parent or both of your interests put together. That is precisely why the judge must approve your parenting plan. 

The fact that this approval doesn’t necessarily require a hearing is why it is possible to modify child custody without going to court.  

 

Factors the Court Will Consider

When deciding whether to approve your petition to modify child custody, the judge will consider the following factors, among others:

  • The child’s relationship with each parent;
  • The child’s adjustment to their home, school, and community;
  • The physical and mental health of the child and of each parent;
  • Each parent’s participation in parenting duties in the past; and
  • Any history of domestic violence or abuse.

 A judge will weigh all of these factors and more. There is no formula.

Modification of Child Support Obligations

A change in the identity of the custodial parent is going to affect the parents’ respective child support obligations. More specifically, the new non-custodial parent will probably have to pay child support to the custodial parent. 

This isn’t necessarily the case, however, if there is a significant income disparity between the two parents.

 

Contact the Washington Child Custody Lawyers at Twyford Law Office To Get Legal Assistance Today

Everything will likely go more smoothly if you hire a Washington family lawyer to assist you in modifying your child custody arrangement. Consider setting up a free consultation to learn about your rights and options.

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our child custody lawyers or reach out to Twyford Law Office online by visiting our contact us page. You can also visit our office at your nearest location.

Twyford Law Office – Seattle Office
814 Second Avenue, Suite 515,
Seattle, WA 98104

(206) 590-7085

Twyford Law Office – Spokane Office
430 W Indiana Ave,
Spokane, WA 99205
.

(509) 327 0777

Twyford Law Office – Bellevue Office
1408 140th Pl NE Suite 400,
Bellevue, WA 98007

(425) 517-3350

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