Child custody disputes are not limited to divorcing spouses. Child custody can involve biological unmarried parents, grand-parents and sometimes other extended family members. Establishing and maintaining a safe stable living environment and custody schedule that meets the needs of a child you love can quickly become emotional, complicated, time consuming and expensive.

At Smythe & Jones PLLC we strive to offer clients a resolution-focused approach. We are here to help you protect your rights and the wellbeing of your children.

Types of Custody

Child custody refers to the rights and obligations between parents, regarding their children. In Washington State, one or both parents may be granted either legal or physical custody of a child.

Physical Custody: refers to the amount of time each parent is permitted physically with a child. This may be sole, primary, or joint custody.

Often, the Court designates one parent as the primary physical custodian, giving the other parent a schedule of temporary custody and visitation. In some cases, however, the Court orders a joint legal and physical custody, by which, both parents have substantial access to their children.

Legal Custody:  Legal custody will determine which parent may make day to day decisions for a child, such as health and medical decisions, as well as educational decisions. It, too, may be sole, primary, or joint custody. However, either parent may make emergency decisions for a child while the child is in his/her custody, regardless of the legal custody arrangement.

A court in Washington State will consider awarding both parents joint legal custody under the following considerations:

  • Each parent’s participation in the decision-making of the child’s life.
  • Each parent’s proximity to one another and how that proximity will affect decision-making for the child.
  • Whether the parents can and will work with each other to make decisions for the child.

How custody is determined

If you have ever been involved in a child custody case or you are about to begin one you most likely have heard the phrase “best interests of the child.” Almost every state’s child custody laws determine custody and visitation issues based on the best interests of the child standard. Washington State expects parents to each present a parenting plan prior to trial. 

Decisions on child custody and visitation can either be made by the parents, through a mediated or negotiated agreement, or if no agreement is possible the court will decide. Courts determine child custody arrangements based on the best interests of the child.

 Parents often feel more satisfied with negotiated custody agreements than if the decision is made solely by the court, and courts want families to enjoy custody arrangements that are both successful and fair. Our attorneys have helped many clients obtain favorable custody arrangements in as many unique situations, from the most amicable to the most contentious actions.

Having an experienced child custody attorney can help you better prepare for mediation or trial. Your Smythe & Jones attorney will provide the experience and perspective to help you best evaluate how to put your children’s interests first and be prepared for complicated issues, whether in mediation or trial.