Child Custody

Few legal rights are as crucial as your rights as a parent. The outcome of a child custody case can have long-lasting effects on your relationship with your children. Some custody cases result in irreparable damage. That’s why it’s important to consult an experienced child custody lawyer to understand your legal rights as soon as possible. Having an attorney by your side early on will provide better protection for your parental rights.

Types of Child Custody

  • Physical Custody: Refers to the amount of time each parent is permitted to spend with the child. It may be sole, primary, or joint custody.
  • Legal Custody: Determines which parent can make day-to-day decisions for the child, such as health and education. It may also be sole, primary, or joint custody.
  • Joint Legal Custody: Involves both parents having substantial access to their children, and both can make decisions for the child.

Factors Considered for Joint Legal Custody

  • Each parent’s participation in decision-making.

  • Proximity of parents to one another.
  • Whether parents can work together to make decisions for the child.

Regrettably, it’s a common occurrence for homeowners and contractors to forego formal written agreements, instead relying on bids or invoices. This practice has resulted in numerous lawsuits due to misunderstandings that could have been avoided if the parties had clarified their expectations from the outset. To prevent such conflicts, it’s crucial to include specific construction tasks in writing, written change orders for any work beyond the original contract, an attorney’s fees clause, payment dates and schedules, and a total project cost not to exceed. If you’re a homeowner and a contractor took your deposit but failed to complete or poorly executed the work, you can seek legal action against them and their bond if available.

On the other hand, if you’re a contractor and a homeowner refuses to pay you for your agreed-upon work, you can file a lien on the property where the work was carried out to secure payment.

What is Conservatorship?

In Washington (WA), child custody is referred to as “conservatorship.” It involves the authority to make important decisions regarding the upbringing of a child. WA courts can award sole conservatorship, similar to sole custody in other states, or joint conservatorship when parents share decision-making responsibilities.

Child Custody During and After Divorce

When divorcing with minor children, child custody must be addressed in the final divorce decree. It’s not always necessary to engage in a contentious custody battle before a judge. Many couples can negotiate parenting plans that prioritize their children’s well-being. A skilled child custody lawyer can guide parents through these challenging issues, helping them set aside animosity for the sake of their children. Additionally, an experienced attorney can offer creative solutions that parents may not have considered before, making the process smoother.

However, there are instances when parents cannot reach an agreement. In such cases, it may be necessary to present custody issues before a judge for a determination based on the children’s best interests. Although this can be emotionally and financially demanding, defending parental rights becomes necessary. A knowledgeable custody lawyer can provide an honest assessment of the likely outcome in court, assisting parents in deciding whether to negotiate a parenting plan or proceed with litigation.

Custody Implications of Legal Separation

Even during legal separation without an official divorce, a family court can issue custody orders to provide clarity for parents during the uncertain period. Clear court orders or parenting agreements often reduce conflicts between parents, and children adjust better when there is a defined parenting schedule. Establishing clear parenting rules can make the entire separation process easier.

Custody for Unmarried Parents

In cases where parents were never legally married, the court can still issue parenting orders to ensure consistency between two households. The court first establishes paternity, which can be done through presumption or a DNA test. Once paternity is established, the court determines a parenting time schedule and decision-making rights for the child. Whether parents are divorcing or unmarried, they can either reach a parenting agreement or rely on the judge’s decision. The best interests of the child guide custody resolutions.

Custody Considerations for Same-Sex Couples

Child custody law has introduced new legal issues concerning same-sex parenting. Establishing legal paternity can be challenging for LGBT parents, especially when they are not the biological or legally adopted parent. In such cases, they often need to argue for their status as a “de facto” parent. Consulting an experienced LGBT custody lawyer can help determine the best approach to establish parental rights.

Once paternity is established, custody cases for same-sex couples are treated similarly to other custody cases. The family court still applies the “best interest of the child” standard to determine visitation schedules and decision-making authority.

Pitbull in a Designer Suit

I hired Ms. Smythe to represent me during my divorce. It was to be a 3 year ordeal. My spouse was a well known doctor in the area and full of confidence that he was going to drag me through the gutter for leaving him after I discovered his numerous affairs and many secrets. And believe me, he tried. Ms. Smythe saw him for what he was and went to work. She was articulate, educated, had integrity for days, was never ever intimidated and had laser focus. She was also very conscientious of my financial plight at the time. She never misled me and was honest about what to expect. We won BIG! Every woman needs a brilliant pit bull in her corner when divorcing a dog. I leave you with this: My ex-husband refers his friends to her if they are in need of a divorce attorney.

Anonymous Client

Highly Recommended

Stacey helped me with my highly contested divorce. She handled several post-divorce and support modification issues for me that were stressful and time consuming. I felt reassured the entire time that she had a handle on all of it. I was relieved to say the least. I would highly recommend her for any Family Law Matter.


What A Relief!

I was referred to Ms. Smythe by a friend after sharing my concerns about my family law matter. I had been told by previous lawyers that I was “fighting an uphill battle” and that they wouldn’t take my case due to the low likelihood that they could achieve an outcome I would be agreeable with. I greatly appreciate their honesty. My friend told me her friend got “exactly what he was looking for” from being represented by Ms. Smythe. I scheduled a meeting with her; after answering the basic questions to establish who was involved in the matter, Ms. Smythe asked me what my ideal resolution would be. I told her what that would be and she explained very frankly what the challenges were. She also shared with me how my goals could be achieved, and, based on her counsel I chose to retain her. Ms. Smythe and her associates took the matter and ran with it. Within 6 months (with very little effort on my end) they were able to get me, literally, exactly what my ideal outcome was.


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Jordan went above and beyond to take her time in helping me with a very difficult situation. She was informative, supportive and extremely knowledgeable! She not only listened, but she provided me so much legal advice. I will proudly give her my business and recommend her to others.


A dedicated lawyer and personal advocate

Stacy and her team did an superb job on my divorce case. Succinct and tactful job presenting, during the hearing, the most pertinent particularities of the case. As someone who is easily intimidated and struggles with self-advocacy Stacey and her team were instrumental to it’s overall positive outcome for the bigger whole. My heartfelt gratitude.


Best Outcome Possible

Jordan represented me in a lengthy case. Her representation and expertise made the process less painful and she made sure I received the best outcome possible. I so appreciate her time and expertise and highly recommend her to anyone. 

Anonymous Client

Top Notch Family Law & Probate Attorney

My spouse was going under the knife in two days when I contacted Stacey. She really pulled out the stops to get a durable power of attorney, health care proxy and last will and testament together for us both. I was referred to Stacy by a friend who used her in her divorce case, and who loved her work. She’s fast, reliable, and really good at what she does. I can’t recommend her highly enough.



Stacey was instrumental in getting my Parenting Plan worked out. She walked me through the process and help craft the plan that worked best for me and my son. Very knowledgeable, helpful, and knows how to get things done!


Compassionate, Supportive & Professional

Stacey Smythe was highly recommended by two of my friends who had used her in their divorce. She was very compassionate, supportive and professional at one of the lowest times in my life. All the legal stuff that comes along with a divorce can be very confusing and she took the time to make sure I understood the process. I would highly recommend her to anyone needing a good attorney for divorce, child custody or estate planning.