Child Custody in Washington State: Full Custody Guide

Posted by Alesha Struthers Jul 13, 2021

There are many questions regarding child custody in Washington state for both married and unmarried couples. One of the most common questions is whether a parenting plan is necessary if a parent is determined to pursue full custody. In this post, you will learn the answer to that question, but also more about the various parts of Washington laws that play into that answer. This includes Washington state divorce laws, Washington state child custody laws for unmarried parents, Washington state parenting plan laws, Washington state custody laws, and what full custody means in Washington state.

This blog post is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding full custody and parenting plans in Washington state, the Law Offices of Alesha Struthers provides free consultations. Schedule your free consultation now by following this link.

While full custody may be your goal, it is important to consider whether that is what truly is in the best interest of your child. However, it is equally crucial to have a basic understanding of the components involved in Washington state family law.

Washington State Divorce Laws

Washington state divorce laws include child support, custody, and visitation (known as a parenting plan)…even if you want full custody (or as it is referred to in Washington state, primary custody). Divorce also includes splitting assets and debts. It generally takes longer than a divorce without minor children. Mediation is also required in many counties. You and your spouse are also required to take parent education class. This class isn't to say that you or the other spouse did anything wrong.

As parents, you and your spouse can work together to come to a decision regarding custody, visitation, and even child support. If you and the other parent are unable to do so and you want full custody, a trial will take place. The court will then hear testimony and take evidence to determine whether you or the other parent should receive full custody or if the two of you should share custody.

Washington State Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents

Washington state child custody laws for unmarried parents lies in a few steps if the couple splits. Unmarried fathers must establish paternity if the father is not named on the birth certificate of the child. If you are already named on the birth certificate, you can move toward either establishing child custody or visitation through the use of a parenting plan. Child support must also be established if hasn't been.

Many unmarried fathers wonder if mothers are given automatic points because they are women. While it may seem that way, the answer is no. Washington courts look at the best interest of the child, work schedules, and risk factors. When possible unmarried parents should work together to determine parental responsibilities and visitation. Children should never be used as a pawn. The court can and often will accept agreements entered into by the parties for both parenting time, custody, and child support.

Washington State Parenting Plan Laws

Washington state parenting plan laws establish how the parents will share parenting time with their minor child or children. A parenting plan is detailed in how much time the child or children spends with each parent. There are reasons to modify a parenting plan. They are referred to as minor modifications and major modifications. Although either parent can dispute a parenting plan, the parents (whether they are married or unmarried) should work together to attempt to develop a plan that works in the best interest of the children.

Washington Custody Laws

Washington custody laws, regardless of whether the parents are married or not, hinge on one key factor that we've mentioned several times: the best interest of the child. Of course, an unmarried father has an extra hurdle to overcome. If they aren't named on the birth certificate, they must establish paternity.

And, unfortunately, regardless of whether there was a marriage, children often pay the price when custody is involved because of child support and their parents being upset because of a failed relationship. Always remember that you must think about what is in the best interest of the child, including what you say and do. Children should not pay the price. Sometimes what you say and do, even talking poorly about the other parent to your child, could come back to haunt you where custody and visitation is concerned. Children benefit from healthy, positive relationships with their parents when it is possible to have them.

Yes, You Need a Parenting Plan in Washington State (Even with Full Custody)

Even if you received full custody in the sense that you were the primary residential parent and you were given all of the decision-making power over the minor child or children by the court (which, again, does not happen as often or as easily as you may think), you must submit a parenting plan. A parenting plan is a visitation agreement. It explains parenting time for the nonprimary residential parent. Although they may not live with the child or children and although they may not make the decisions, they are entitled to see the children unless the court decides otherwise.

Free Consultation: Learn More Child Custody in Washington State

Child custody in Washington state comes with a lot of questions and, frankly, a lot of misunderstandings, especially where parenting plans are involved. If you have questions or concerns about your rights, establishing or modifying a parenting plan, or filing for custody, schedule your free consultation with the Law Offices of Alesha Struthers now!

Disclaimer: This publication is not legal advice. It is intended as legal information only. For legal advice specific to your needs, contact the Law Offices of Alesha Struthers, PS at 800-972-0411.

Posted July 2021