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Renton Child Custody

Our King County Child Custody Attorneys Will Protect Your Family

When going through a divorce or separation, one of the most emotionally stressful processes is deciding your children's living arrangements. In many cases, parents agree to child custody arrangements through mediation. However, sometimes, child custody can become an extremely contentious legal dispute. Regardless of the situation you’re in, navigating the complex child custody laws in Washington State and King County is very stressful.

Fortunately, our Renton child custody legal team is here to protect your parental rights. When child custody disputes arise, we take care of the legal matters, allowing you to focus on protecting your meaningful relationships.

How Is Child Custody Determined In The State Of Washington?

In Washington State, local courts determine child custody based on the child’s best interests. In line with this, they create child custody arrangements known as "the parenting plan," which awards custody in various ways while considering the child's needs and each parent’s capabilities.

Courts often award shared custody, allowing both parents to share parenting responsibilities to some extent. In cases where a single parent is granted primary custody, the other may receive visitation rights, except in extreme situations that may warrant limiting contact.

Chapter 26.09 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) governs the dissolution of marriage and addresses child custody, parenting plans, and visitation issues. It outlines how courts should make decisions regarding custody, which may involve considering any history of domestic violence or abuse and the child's wishes regarding the parenting plan, provided they are mature enough to express a preference.

For example, RCW 26.27.201 outlines the jurisdictional basis for making child custody determinations, emphasizing the importance of the child's home in Washington, significant connections with the state, and substantial evidence available within the state regarding the child's care, protection, training, and personal relationships. The statute ensures that physical presence or personal jurisdiction over a party or child is neither necessary nor sufficient to determine child custody.

What Are The Types Of Child Custody In Washington?

As stated in RCW 26.16.125, Washington recognizes different types of custody arrangements:

"Henceforth, the rights and responsibilities of the parents in the absence of misconduct shall be equal, and one parent shall be as fully entitled to the custody, control, and earnings of the children as the other parent."

While Washington State recognizes a variety of custody arrangements, its primary focus lies on developing the parenting plan, emphasizing that the child’s best interests should be the top priority when creating one.

This is also to ensure the child's emotional growth, health, stability, and a maintained relationship with both parents unless such contact would be detrimental to their well-being.

How Do King County Courts Determine What Is In The Best Interests Of The Child?

By creating a parenting plan that supports the child's development and health, respects the value of parent-child relationships, and adapts to the family's specific circumstances and needs, Washington courts determine what is in the child’s best interests. They take into account:

  • the responsibility of parents to make decisions and perform functions necessary for the child's care and growth;
  • the importance of fostering the relationship between the child and each parent, unless such contact is deemed inconsistent with the child's best interests;
  • the need for the parenting arrangement to support the child's emotional growth, health, stability, and physical care; and
  • residential time and financial support, which are crucial components of parenting arrangements.

When determining visitation orders or establishing permanent parenting plans, the court also evaluates specific factors outlined in RCW 26.11.040, such as:

  • The nature and quality of the child's relationship with each of the parents and other significant individuals
  • The child's developmental level and emotional needs
  • The history of each parent's involvement and ability to cooperate in decision-making regarding the child
  • The existence of any history of abuse or neglect
  • The child's reasonable preference, considering their age and maturity
  • The effect of the parenting plan on the child's relationship with each parent
  • Each parent's employment schedule and its compatibility with the child's needs

With these factors in mind, the courts create a parenting plan.

What Is A Parenting Plan?

In Washington State, a parenting plan is a legal document outlining how both parents will raise the children after a divorce or separation. Its main objectives are to:

  • Ensure the child's physical care
  • Maintain emotional stability
  • Accommodate the child's changing needs as they grow
  • Define each parent's responsibilities
  • Minimize exposure to parental conflict
  • Protect the child's best interests

The parenting plan also covers dispute resolution processes and decision-making authority to encourage cooperation between parents and reduce the need for judicial intervention.

Can Custody Be Modified After A Court Ruling?

Under RCW 26.09.270, courts in Washington can modify child custody. To change a custody arrangement, also known as a parenting plan, you must show the court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the drafting of the plan and that the modification is in the child's best interests.

Modifications can include changes in a parent's living situation, health, or behavior. They may also arise if the current arrangement does not meet the child's needs.

Modifying the parenting plan involves several steps including:

  1. Filing a petition for modification with the Washington courts
  2. Providing evidence of the change in circumstances
  3. Possibly attending mediation or a court hearing

Washington state law is designed to ensure a child’s stability while allowing for adjustments as family situations evolve. Therefore, the court's primary concern is always the child’s best interests.

What Is A Renton Child Custody Attorney?

A child custody lawyer specializes in handling cases related to determining the living arrangements, care, and legal guardianship of children following the separation or divorce of their parents. They represent one parent's interests in legal disputes over who should have physical and/or legal custody of the child or children.

These King County legal professionals navigate the complexities of family law to advocate for their client's rights to raise their children in a healthy, thriving environment. Some of their services include preparing legal documents, representing clients in King County court, and providing advice on possible outcomes based on their knowledge of family law. To reach a custody agreement promoting the child’s best interests, they may also be involved in negotiations with the other parent's attorney.

Furthermore, child custody lawyers in King County work to modify existing custody agreements. They understand the legal standards and can help a parent justify and explain to the court why a change is needed. Given the emotional nature of custody disputes, your child custody attorney provides objective advice to help you make informed decisions during a stressful and challenging time.

When Do You Need To Seek Assistance From A King County Child Custody Attorney?

An attorney is your best ally during a child custody case, and there are many scenarios where you must work with one. These include:

You Are Facing A Complex Or Contentious Custody Case

If your custody situation is fraught with high conflict and complex issues, securing legal counsel will level the playing field and help you navigate the complexities of family law.

There Is A Change In Circumstances Since The Original Order

You'll need an attorney if there's been a significant change in your circumstances since the creation of the original parenting plan and you wish to modify the custody arrangement.

You Are Facing Interstate Custody Issues

If your case involves jurisdictions across state lines, an attorney knowledgeable of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) and the complexities of interstate custody law is crucial to securing your parental rights.

You Are Dealing With An Uncooperative Co-Parent

An attorney can help enforce your parental rights and navigate the legal hurdles if your child's other parent is not cooperating, denying visitation, or is likely to contest your custody claims.

You Are Concerned About Your Child's Safety

If you believe your child is in danger or allegations of abuse, neglect, or substance abuse are present, an attorney can take immediate action to protect your child, including seeking emergency custody orders.

Mediation Has Failed To Resolve Your Case

If you and your child’s other parent attempted mediation without success or if mediation is deemed unsuitable due to the nature of the case, an attorney can pursue your custody goals through formal legal channels.

A child custody attorney will provide legal support to protect your parental rights and resolve child custody disputes. If you need a family lawyer in King County, Washington, we've got you covered.

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