Child Custody

Divorce and Child Custody

A divorce will touch many areas of a couple's life. When the couple has children involved, complications will grow and can make it more difficult for both parties to come to a solution they can both agree upon. Where the child will live, who will have the authority to make decisions for them and how much time, if any will each parent have with the child will all need to be established.

Court Decisions on Awarding Custody

Child custody can be divided in a number of ways. While a couple can have a say in how to divide custody of children, the court will ultimately review what is in the best interests of the child. Custody can be awarded to either one or both of the parents, though even if both parents are given custody rights, it does not mean that it will be a fully equal division. The child may be moved back and forth between the two; living at one home on weekends and spending the week at the other parent's house.

Legal and Physical Custody

The court may choose to award joint custody if they believe the parents can work together when making choices that pertain to the child. Custody can be legal or physical and this can be awarded to either or both individuals. A parent that is given legal custody will be able to make the basic every day decisions for the child, such as their education, health and medical related choice. Both parents can still be granted ultimate authority over the child, meaning that even though the child may be living with one parent, the other parent still has some form of legal authority.

The courts will look at the involvement that each parent has in the lives of their children, their ability to care for the child, the financial standing, if they can offer a stable and loving home and what the child's wishes. Their main concern is the child and what will work for them both short term and long term. A parent that is not given rights over the child may still seek visitation. While these decisions are mandatory to implement, if a change needs to be made, a modification can be sought during which the court will review the situation, the new circumstance and if they believe there is valid reason to make an adjustment.

Parenting Plan Arrangements and Scheduling

In Washington State, custody orders are called a parenting plan or residential schedule. In every action for divorce or legal separation involving a minor child, the court requires that a parenting plan be entered showing the child's residential time with each parent, joint or sole decision making authority, designation of custodial parent and other visitation related provisions. The plan can be made by the parents or with the help of an attorney, but it will ultimately need to be reviewed and accepted by the court. If both parents are able to agree on the plan, the judge is often likely to be in favor of it. The plan will then be court ordered and any violations of it can end various penalties.