Experienced Tacoma Family Lawyers Providing Personalized and Compassionate Legal Representation for Child Custody Matters

Serving these areas in Washington Gig Harbor, Bonney Lake, Lakewood, Puyallup, and University Place

For divorcing and separating parents, few issues involve more emotional investment than seeking to secure the custody or visitation rights you desire. You want what is best for your children, and you want to make sure that they have every possible opportunity to succeed while growing up in a safe, nurturing, and comfortable environment. But, if you and your co-parent have different ideas about what life should look like for your children after your divorce or separation, establishing a parenting plan can present difficult challenges that require the help of an experienced family law attorney.

At Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S., we bring decades of experience to representing parents in custody matters throughout the greater Tacoma area. While custody disputes most commonly arise in the context of a divorce or dissolution, our attorneys have significant experience representing clients with other family circumstances, as well. We bring the same personalized and compassionate approach to every situation we handle. If you need a divorce lawyer for a custody matter in Washington, we can help. Call us to discuss your options today.

Parenting Plans: Establishing Custody and Visitation in Washington State

Technically, the terms “custody” and “visitation” are relics of the past in Washington. Today, Washington’s family law code eschews these terms in favor of the concept of a “parenting plan” – an arrangement between separated parents that is intended to provide for the physical care and emotional stability of the child.

However, terminology aside, establishing a parenting plan involves much the same process as establishing custody and visitation rights in other states. Each parent can have decision-making authority (legal custody) and residential provisions (physical custody); and, while the courts generally favor parenting plans that involve both parents, one parent can be awarded sole decision-making authority and exclusive residential rights under appropriate circumstances.

As with the division of community property and establishment of maintenance and child support, parents can establish a parenting plan without court involvement. However, all parenting plans must adhere to the relevant legal requirements, and all parenting plans are ultimately subject to court approval. Whether parents are able to negotiate a parenting plan or must pursue their desired parenting rights in court, some of the key factors that will guide the establishment of their parenting plan in Washington include:

  • The “strength, nature, and stability” of the children’s relationships with their parents;
  • Any agreement among the parents regarding residential provisions for each child;
  • Each parent’s “past and potential future performance of parenting functions,” including involvement in day-to-day childrearing;
  • The parents’ wishes;
  • The children’s wishes, provided that the children are “sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences;” and,
  • Each parent’s work schedule.

Importantly, while no single factor is determinative, the law states that the first factor – the “strength, nature, and stability” of the children’s parental relationships – is to be given the greatest weight. As a result, when preparing for a divorce, dissolution, or other proceeding in which child custody rights are at issue, it is critical that parents plan accordingly and be proactive about shifting the weight of the factors in their favor.

Key Components of a Successful Parenting Plan

While the residential custody and visitation schedule (e.g., the children will live with one parent and visit the other parent every other weekend) is certainly a major component of a parenting plan, it is by no means the only issue that needs to be resolved. In addition, divorcing and separated parents have a variety of options when it comes to establishing residential provisions, and it is important that they examine all alternatives before settling on an option that may or may not ultimately work for both parents long-term.

The following is just a short sampling of the considerations that go into establishing a successful parenting plan in Washington:

  • The children’s current living circumstances, school enrollment, and social bonds.
  • The parents’ ability to cooperate in the best interests of their children.
  • How to address holidays and summer vacation schedules.
  • Whether residential provisions should change as the children grow older (e.g., to accommodate different educational needs).
  • Whether either parent intends to relocate out of state.
  • Any history of drug or alcohol dependence.
  • Any history of domestic violence or physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

Speak with a Tacoma, WA Family Law Attorney at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S.

For more information about what you can do to prepare for a divorce, dissolution, or legal separation involving children, schedule an initial consultation at the Tacoma, WA law offices of Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S. To speak with one of our experienced family lawyers in confidence, call (253) 272-2997 or contact us online today.