Child custody is important for many children, parents and families and can be an important concern to address during the divorce process. For that reason, understanding how child custody is determined in Washington can be helpful as parents navigate the child custody process and developing a parenting plan.

How child custody is determined

Child custody determined based on what is in the best interests of the child. Several different factors are taken into consideration to help decide on the best child custody arrangement for the child including the ability of the parents to:

  • Maintain a stable, loving relationship with the child;
  • Provide for the child’s basic needs;
  • Be involved with the child’s educational needs;
  • Exercise good judgment;
  • Financially support the child; and
  • The child’s wishes.

Why the need for a parenting plan

The parenting plan for the child is designed to create a loving and stable relationship between the child and the child’s parenting. The parenting plan that is developed will outline who the child will live with, how important decisions for the child will be made and how decisions will be made for the child in the future. Joint custody is a possibility, though the family law court may look to who provided the majority of the child’s daily care prior to the divorce and parenting plan when determining custody.

The overall goal of the child custody process and any child custody arrangement is to ensure the safety and overall well-being of the child. With that outcome in mind, the family law process provides tools and resources to help develop a parenting plan that will achieve that and is best for the child.