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Child Custody in Washington State

Familiarize Yourself with Child Custody Laws in Washington


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The state of Washington uses several criteria to determine child custody. Primarily, Washington determines custody based on the best interests of the child. Washington expects parents to present a parenting plan prior to a custody hearing. The court will either approve the plan or not. Parents who wish to file for child custody in Washington should first become familiar with the custody statutes in this state.

Related: Help our readers by sharing your experience with child custody in Washington.

Joint and Legal Child Custody in Washington

In Washington, one or both parents may be granted either legal or physical custody of a child. Legal custody will determine which parent may make day to day decisions for a child, such as health and medical decisions, as well as educational decisions. However, either parent may make emergency decisions for a child while the child is in his/her custody, regardless of the legal custody arrangement.

A court in Washington will consider awarding both parents joint physical custody under the following circumstances:

  • Each parent's participation in the decision-making of the child's life
  • Each parent's proximity to one another and how that proximity will affect decision-making for the child
  • Whether the parents can and will work with each other to make decisions for the child

Visitation Rights and Child Custody in Washington

In Washington, a parent who is not granted custody of a child is entitled to reasonable visitation rights. Visitation may be limited if a parent has done the following:

  • Abandoned the child for an extended period of time
  • Physically, sexually or emotionally abused the child
  • Had a history of domestic violence
  • Assaulted or sexually assaulted the child and caused bodily harm
  • Has an adult sex offender conviction

Modification of Child Custody in Washington

In Washington, a parent who is seeking a modification of child custody should present a motion to modify custody and a decree that explains the facts supporting the modification. The parent seeking a modification should also serve it to the other party and the court. A parent will need to prove the following:

  • Substantial change of circumstances in the current custody arrangement, and
  • The custody modification is in the best interests of the child

For more information child custody in Washington, speak with a qualified attorney in Washington or refer to the Revised Code of Washington.

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