Divorce is difficult decision for parents and the reasons for a divorce range from “growing apart” to escaping domestic violence. However, when parents no longer wish to remain together, they need to establish a child custody arrangement to reflect their parenting decisions and the best interests of the child.

There are parents that work well together and develop a plan without the need for court intervention. The laws found in RCW 26.09, court rules, and court procedures can be confusing for many parents; even parents that agree on a plan.

One thing is for sure, parents going through a divorce need to establish a legally binding custody arrangement for the benefit of both the parent and child.

Here is generally how Washington state courts determine who gets child custody.
Different Custody Options.  A child custody arrangement is called a Parenting Plan. Courts may award shared custody or one parent primary custody with the other parent visitation.

Factors the Court Will Consider

Any custody issue brought to the court will be handled by a family law judge or commissioner A court’s primary goal is to determine which parenting plan is in the best interest of the child.

In order to determine the child’s best interest, the judge will consider several different factors, including:

• The child’s relationship with each parent;
• The child’s relationship with their siblings or other individuals in each parent’s household;
• The child’s involvement in their community;
• The child’s school schedule;
• A parent’s work schedule;
• Which parent has acted as the child’s primary caretaker in the past;
• Each parent’s physical, emotional, and mental health; and
• Each parent’s ability to care for their child.

When the court looks at each parent’s ability to care for the child, they will consider the parents’ work schedules, locations, lifestyle, home stability, and any history of domestic violence or abuse.

The court may consider the child’s wishes regarding the parenting plan if that child is considered mature enough to make a decision; however, this is in rare cases.

Each and every family law case is different and there are many other factors that the court can consider. It is very important to understand the law, court rules, and procedures. If you need assistance, contact an experienced family law attorney at Althauser Rayan Abbarno in Centralia or Olympia at (360) 754-5844 or visit CentraliaLaw.com