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Kent Child Custody

Child Custody And Visitation Attorneys Protect Your Family In King County

Do you find yourself in a battle with your ex-spouse over your children? Are you afraid you might lose the ability to be an important part of their lives? You are not alone. One of the most stressful things a parent can do is fight for custody and visitation. Fortunately, our skilled child custody and visitation attorneys in Kent are here to protect your parental rights. We will fight for what is fair under the law and protect your parent-child relationship.

How Do I Get Custody In King County?

To secure custody in King County, here are the steps you will take:

  1. File A Petition: Initiate the process by filing a petition for custody (part of a divorce proceeding if married or as a separate action if not) with the King County Superior Court. Include a proposed parenting plan outlining your desired custody arrangement.
  2. Serve The Other Parent: Legally notify the other parent of the custody case by serving them with the court papers, following Washington State's service procedures.
  3. Attend Required Classes: If applicable, enroll in and complete a court-mandated parenting seminar designed to help parents understand the impact of custody disputes on children.
  4. Participate In Mediation: Mediation can help parents agree on custody and parenting arrangements without a court trial.
  5. Prepare For Trial: If you cannot reach an agreement through mediation, prepare for a court hearing. Collect evidence, interview witnesses, and, if feasible, hire a family law attorney to represent you.
  6. Attend The Custody Hearing: Present your case, evidence, and arguments to the judge, who will consider all information based on the child's best interests.
  7. Follow The Court's Order: Once the judge decides, adhere strictly to the custody and parenting plan ordered by the court.

Hiring a family law attorney well-versed in King County's specific procedures can greatly enhance your likelihood of obtaining a positive result. A Kent child custody attorney can assist you at every stage, ensuring you adhere to all legal obligations and meet necessary deadlines.

Who Gets Custody If The Parents Are Unmarried?

In King County, Washington, if parents are unmarried, the mother is granted sole legal and physical custody of the child by default unless the father pursues legal action to establish paternity and assert custody rights. Here's how the process typically unfolds:

  1. Establish Paternity: If the father has not already done so, he must legally establish paternity by either signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity form at the time of the child's birth or later or filing a paternity action in court.
  2. File For Custody: After establishing paternity, the father can file a petition for custody in King County Superior Court. This petition should include a proposed parenting plan detailing the desired custody arrangement and visitation schedule.
  3. Serve The Mother: Adhering to Washington State's service requirements, the father must legally notify the mother by serving her with the custody petition.
  4. Attend Required Programs: Both parents may need to complete a court-mandated parenting seminar to educate themselves on the effects of custody disputes on children.
  5. Participate In Mediation: The court might require or suggest mediation to help both parents agree on a parenting plan and custody arrangements without going to trial.
  6. Prepare For Court: If mediation does not result in an agreement, both parents should prepare for a court hearing. Preparation involves gathering evidence, lining up potential witnesses, and considering hiring a family law attorney to enhance their case.
  7. Go To Court: During the custody hearing, both parents can present their case, evidence, and arguments on why their proposed custody arrangement serves the child's best interests.
  8. Comply With The Court's Decision: The court will decide based on what it deems to be in the child’s best interests, taking into account factors such as the parent-child relationship, the child's requirements, and the parent's capability to offer a stable living environment. Both parents must adhere to the custody and parenting plan ordered by the court.

King County Court's primary concern is the child’s well-being and best interests and will make custody decisions accordingly. Consulting with a family law attorney well-versed in the workings of King County's court system can be immensely helpful in navigating this process and advocating for your child's rights and welfare.

What Is A Parenting Plan In King County?

In King County, Washington, a parenting plan is a formal document outlining how separated or divorced parents will co-parent their children. This plan covers various aspects of the child's care and upbringing, ensuring clarity of responsibilities and expectations. Key components include:

  1. Residential Schedule: Details where the child will reside daily and outlines the division of time between parents, including weekdays, weekends, holidays, and vacations
  2. Decision-Making Authority: Specifies who can make significant decisions regarding the child's education, healthcare, and religious upbringing
  3. Dispute Resolution: Establishes methods for resolving disagreements about the parenting plan or the child's upbringing
  4. Transfer And Exchange Of The Child: Describes how and where parents will transfer the child to each other, aiming to minimize conflict and ensure the child's safety
  5. Limitations And Restrictions: Includes provisions or restrictions related to travel, relocation, or other aspects of the child's care to safeguard the child's best interests

Once a judge approves it, the parenting plan becomes legally binding, and both parents must adhere to its terms. Non-compliance can lead to legal consequences, including modifications to the plan or enforcement actions by the court.

If Parents Share Custody, Do They Pay Child Support?

Child support payments can still be a part of the arrangement when parents share custody. The specifics depend on several factors, including the income of both parents, the percentage of time the child spends with each parent, and the child's needs. In King County, here's how it generally works:

  • Income Consideration: The court evaluates each parent's income to determine their financial ability to support the child.
  • Custody And Time Spent: The time spent with each parent influences child support calculations. Even in shared custody, if one parent has significantly more time with the child, the other may still be responsible for child support.
  • Child's Needs: Expenses such as healthcare, education, daycare, and extracurricular activities are considered, with both parents expected to contribute proportionally to their income.
  • Calculation Guidelines: Washington State employs specific guidelines considering combined parental income, the child's needs, and custody arrangements to calculate child support.
  • Adjustments: The court can modify child support based on parental financial resources, the child's unique requirements, and other relevant factors.

In shared custody, the higher-earning parent may still provide child support to balance the child's standard of living between homes. The aim remains consistent: to meet the child's financial needs regardless of residence.

What Happens If We Can't Agree On Custody?

If parents cannot agree on custody, the matter typically goes to court for resolution. However, parents are often required to attempt mediation first. The process involves a neutral third party facilitating discussions to reach agreements on custody and parenting plans that are acceptable to both parties.

If mediation fails, the case proceeds to court, where both parents can present evidence and arguments for their preferred custody arrangement. To understand the family's dynamics, the child's needs, and each parent's capability, the court may order assessments, which can include home visits, psychological evaluations, and interviews with the child, depending on age and maturity.

In a custody hearing, a judge considers evidence, witness testimony, and professional evaluations, prioritizing the child's best interests, including health, safety, and emotional well-being. A parenting plan is issued after, outlining custody arrangements, visitation schedules, decision-making responsibilities, and dispute-resolution procedures. Parents can request a custody modification in King County if significant changes occur.

Will My Child Need To Appear In Court?

Whether your child needs to appear in court for custody hearings depends on their age, maturity, and the specifics of your case. To minimize stress, courts generally prefer to shield children from the legal process. They'll avoid directly involving them whenever possible. However, if a child demonstrates maturity, the court may consider their preferences without requiring their presence in the courtroom. In some cases, judges may conduct private "in-camera" interviews with children in their chambers, often with a court reporter and sometimes with attorneys present.

To minimize a child's exposure to the adversarial court environment and prioritize their well-being in custody decisions, professionals like psychologists or custody evaluators may be brought in to assess the child's needs and family dynamics. This can spare the child from directly participating in the courtroom process. In some cases, children can even provide input through written statements or through a guardian ad litem, a court-appointed individual who represents their best interests. Consulting with a family law attorney can offer valuable guidance and clarity on how local courts typically handle such matters.

If you are scheduled to face a child custody hearing in King County, our Kent family law firm is here to help. We'll review your case and explore your legal options. Then our experienced attorneys will advocate for you in King County Family Court. Contact us now to learn how we'll fight for your parental rights.

Client Reviews
Laurie has worked on my very challenging and contentious divorce and I could not have asked for a better family law attorney. She was able to handle all of the twists and turns of my case with ease. I highly recommend Laurie to anyone looking for an excellent, ethical and hard working counselor. Chandler
Laurie is an incredible divorce lawyer! She did an amazing job with my divorce, and it was a real dog fight the whole way. She is a true fighter. And you can tell that she really cares about her family law clients and the results that she achieves for them. John
My lawyer guided me through a very challenging time in my life when I was going through my divorce. She worked hard and explained every step of the way what was going on so I could understand the process. I was very happy with her work. Barbel