Roommates and Child Custody in Washington State

Posted by Alesha Struthers Jan 24, 2023

A divorce can impact you financially as well as emotionally. You may have to start over again. You may be forced to move out of the marital home or struggle to keep the lights on in the marital home with just your income. Maybe you were a stay-at-home parent with no income or now have an income that just doesn't cover the bills.

It's difficult, especially with inflation. What are your options? Could you get a roommate? How might that affect my child custody case ? This article goes over information on roommates and child custody in Washington state .

This article is intended for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended for legal advice. If you need legal advice about roommates and child custody in Washington state , The Offices of Alesha Struthers offers free initial consultations.

Can Having a Roommate Affect Child Custody in Washington State?

Living in a roommate situation is quite common after divorce. Depending on the situation, there could be a possibility that your roommate could cause an issue in your child custody case . If you were to live with someone temporarily in their house, you could be considered as “experiencing homelessness,” which can affect your child custody in Washington state . Depending on the circumstances, it can be seen as an unstable environment for the child.

A parent living with their parents until they can get on their feet would likely not be since this is family and the established relationship between the grandparents and the child. If you have a roommate living in your home, that does not count as experiencing homelessness on your part. 

In most cases, a roommate won't affect your child custody case if your child has adequate privacy, depending on their age. This might mean having their own room or private area in which they can change clothing. If you choose to have a roommate stay with you in your home, there are a few things you may consider not only for your child custody case but also for your safety. You need to ask yourself if this person fits within the best interest of your child .

The Best Interest of the Child and Having Roommates

First and foremost, your roommate shouldn't have a history of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or child abuse. This is not only for your child custody case  but also for the safety of both you and your child. Regardless of whether your roommate is a relative, this history of abuse is a deal-breaker. A judge would reconsider custody over this factor. If you plan to get a roommate to live in your home alongside your child, you should perform a background check on that person.

If your roommate is a parent who lost their parenting rights to their child, that will cause concern for the judge. There had to be a reason why they aren't allowed time with their child. So, this certainly may not be in your child's best interest to have this person around. If your roommate is a parent bringing their child into your home, make sure, depending on the age and gender of the children, that they have adequate privacy. Two girls relatively close in age can share a room, but children differing in ages or genders should not share a room and would be required to have adequate privacy.

Does your roommate have an existing relationship with the child? While it's common to have a “rent-a-room” roommate situation, having someone already established in the child's life, like a close friend of the parent or a relative, would suit the child's best interest more than a total stranger. Even if someone's background check comes back squeaky clean, this doesn't mean they are a good person to live with for you or your child.

Stability is vital for children. It's best not to have various people in and out of your household. 

Can My Ex Dictate Who Is Around My Child? 

It depends. If your former spouse has proof that your roommate has a background of abuse and reason to believe that the child is not safe around this person, they can present their evidence to the court for an emergency parenting plan modification. They would have legal standing on this so long as they file in good faith and have the necessary evidence.

If your former spouse is angry because they are making assumptions out of jealousy or trying to hinder you from moving on from their relationship with you, it is not appropriate to file with the courts. This is likely litigation abuse. Litigation abuse most often happens in cases where domestic abuse is present.

Related: Abusive Litigation Measure Better Protects Domestic Violence Survivors

Abusers turn to litigation abuse to stay relevant and in control. Even in cases where domestic abuse hasn't been proven, if the courts aren't able to verify that domestic abuse was not present in the relationship, the courts will still move to determine if these allegations are cause for litigation abuse.

Tips for Roommates and Child Custody in Washington State 

If you need or want to have a roommate and are curious about how roommates and child custody in Washington state are affected , you should consider the factors mentioned in this article.

  • Be prepared to prove that your roommate is a safe person to be around your child.
  • Be prepared to explain why you have a roommate, whether you live in their home or they live in your home. There is no harm in proving these things to the courts should the questions arise.
  • Be open about having a roommate situation if you can safely do so with your former spouse. Attempting to conceal your roommate from your ex when your child is involved can cause concern and unnecessary issues between you, even if there are no safety issues. Think about how you would feel if the situation were reversed.

Child Custody in Washington State: Free Consultation

If you have more questions about roommates and child custody in Washington state , The Law Offices of Alesha Struthers offers free initial consultations. Child custody battles can be brutal during a divorce. Ms. Struthers has the compassion and the dedication to handle your custody battle and make it a little easier to go through. She can help you find the solutions that fit your family law situation.

Here at The Law Offices of Alesha Struthers, we are passionate about helping clients find domestic violence resources. If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic violence, or litigation abuse, check out our resources page for domestic violence and our helpful protection orders page for more information on how you can protect yourself.

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.