Determining the best situation for your children is one of the most important decisions you will make when going through a divorce. At the law office of Kalkadora Thangkhiew, we understand this and work with clients involved in all types of child custody matters. We are here to help explain the legal process so that you fully understand what to expect should you find yourself in a child custody situation.
You might be wondering what the law is in Washington with regards to determining custody, or if you should seek mediation with your spouse instead of going to court? We will answer these, along with other, common questions that arise when parents decide to get a divorce.
“In Washington state, one of the first steps in the process of determining child custody is the creation of a parenting plan. This plan should include all details of where a child will live, how decisions will be made about the child, and how all future disputes will be handled.”
The determination of custody and visitation rights for your children can happen in several ways. This largely is based on whether you are facing a contested or uncontested divorce. While an uncontested divorce, or “simple divorce” as it is commonly referred to, is much easier to handle, it is not always the situation. Whether you are involved in a contested or uncontested divorce, we are willing and able to help you with your child custody needs.
For those involved in an uncontested divorce, mediation is a good way to handle child custody matters. Mediation involves meeting with your spouse and each of your attorneys to determine custody arrangements without having to go to court. Meeting in a less stressful environment can be very beneficial, and also will save your child from having to go through the stress of a court battle. Having you and your spouse come to an agreement without the court involved is the best case scenario, but should you not be able to reach an agreement, there are other paths for you to pursue.
In Washington state, one of the first steps in the process of determining child custody is the creation of a parenting plan. This plan should include all details of where a child will live, how decisions will be made about the child, and how all future disputes will be handled. A spouse may request physical custody or legal custody, which involves making decisions on behalf of the child including medical and educational decisions without actually living with the child. One or both spouses may agree to either physical or legal custody, or both.
Washington state has a list of forms for download on its website. It’s a long list and it is likely you will need to use a number of these forms in your custody process. Attorney Kalkadora Thangkhiew is very experienced in these matters and our law office will be happy to guide you through this.
Should one of the spouses not be granted physical custody of the child, he or she is legally allowed visitation rights. These may be limited based on factors like a history of domestic violence, any prior abuse to the child, abandonment of the child, or having a sex offender conviction.
Parenting plans must be submitted and approved by a judge before they are carried out. A judge will always act in the best interest of the child when either approving or denying a parenting plan. There are a lot of points that a judge will consider, and being aware of these ahead of time when first creating a parenting plan will only help you increase your chance that the plan will be approved. Here is a common list of points that a judge will consider:
- Location of both spouses
- Physical and mental health of both spouses and the child
- Relationship between the child and both parents prior to the divorce
- Wishes of the child (if they are old enough to express these)
- Lifestyle of both parents (including their work schedules and financial status)
- Willingness of the spouses to work together to benefit the child
- The relationship(s) the child has with anyone else who is living with each of the spouses (such as a romantic partner, other siblings, step siblings, or grandparents).
If you are not able to reach an agreement with your spouse, you will be forced to go to trial. A judge will make a final decision on the proper parenting plan for the child.
We understand that going through these matters is extremely difficult. Judges will make determinations based on so many factors, including if you are the mother or father of the child, an issue we will discuss further in the coming weeks. If you are currently involved in a child custody dispute, please contact us for a free consultation. You can depend on our experts to provide you with the personalized attention you deserve.