Dedicated to Finding Satisfactory Solutions to Parenting Plans
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, our Spokane divorce lawyers 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.
Why Choose Our Child Custody Attorneys?
We have extensive experience, having handled a full range of legal issues related to child custody and custody disputes for more than 40 years.
We take a client-directed approach, keeping our clients involved in the making of important decisions related to their case.
We are committed to resolving your case with the best possible outcome.
Contact our Spokane child custody lawyers by calling (509) 327-0777 or completing our online form.
Types of Child Custody and Arrangements
Parents in the state of Washington who have minor children must enter in a parenting plan with the court before finalizing a divorce. When spouses cannot agree on custody, a judge will make the final decision on the custody arrangements for them, based on the best interests of the child. The following are the types of custody that can be granted:
Legal Custody: The right to make decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, and religion.
Physical Custody: The child’s living arrangements and the rights and responsibilities associated with daily childcare.
Parents or a judge can divide legal and physical custody in several ways:
Sole Custody: When one parent is given sole physical custody, it means the child is primarily living with them. The parent is then what’s called the custodial parent, while the other is the non-custodial parent. Both physical and legal sole custody is generally only granted when there are concerns related to drug or alcohol use, child abuse or neglect, domestic violence, mental health issues, or criminal history. When that is the case, the non-custodial parent may have restricted or supervised visitation rights.
Joint Custody: Joint custody is a common form of custody arrangement, in which parents share the responsibility for major decision-making and/or physical custody of the children. Ex-spouses with joint physical custody tend to also share legal custody.
Hybrid Custody: A court may order a hybrid of both joint and sole custody. For instance, one parent may be awarded final decision-making authority in the event of a disagreement.
Custody Laws in Washington
Under Washington State’s 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 may agree on their 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
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 for holidays. This schedule should include details about the 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 on 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.
Custody Disputes and How to Solve Them
When a divorced couple cannot solve a custody dispute by simply discussing it, they may refer to their parenting plan, which will include a process for resolving disagreements. It may involve seeing a neutral third party, such as a counselor or mediator, or basically someone who can help facilitate a meeting and help the parents come to an agreement. The same steps can also be taken when changes to the parenting plan need to be made following the divorce, due to the evolving needs of children and parents. The plan may also state what to do next if the parents are still in disagreement, which is likely arbitration. Arbitration is when each party presents their sides and a neutral third-party arbitrator makes a decision on the matter for them. Washington state law will not allow parents to take a disputed matter to court until they have attempted a method of alternative dispute resolution.
Our Spokane Child Custody Lawyers Will Fight for You
When you are involved in a custody dispute, you need a family law 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. We offer free consultations to parents with concerns in regards to child custody and custody disputes. Reach us online or call (509) 327-0777 to discuss your legal options today.