Over the decades, many studies on children and divorce report children usually do better with two parents. And in fact, Washington and most other states try to give children a chance of having both parents in their lives.

Two parents better for the child in most cases

What works best for divorcing adults? How will single parenthood affect their lives? These may be excellent questions. But Washington State focuses on the children who, after all, have the least control over their own lives.

Research shows that when parents share the child’s time, the result is typically a better life for the child. The goal is a stable situation with two parents doing their best to keep the children healthy and safe, even when the parents have divorced and now live apart.

The pattern usually holds even in difficult situations

A striking message in many of these studies is that the pattern is surprisingly consistent. It often holds no matter the parents’ income, how strongly they conflict or even the quality of the relationships between a parent and child. It seems that trying to keep the child with both parents is worth the effort in most cases.

Parents are given chances to make sound custody decisions

Washington says its goal in custody decisions is solely to look after the child’s best interests. The policy is for courts to focus on the child’s life, with special attention to a healthy relationship with each parent.

In the usual case, the court expects parents to work together to create and agree on a detailed, thorough, well-considered plan for sharing custody.

The court then decides if the plan is good enough to approve. If the parents cannot overcome their differences, courts often order alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration. Finally, if all else fails, the court creates a parenting plan and orders the parents to follow it.

Regardless of the path to the plan, the child’s best interest is squarely in the court’s sights.