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Child Custody

When going into a divorce or dissolution of a long-term relationship, many parents pursue child custody outcomes based on well-meaning but often incorrect advice from family and friends. A good example would be believing that Washington courts are biased against fathers and always award custody to mothers.

Thankfully, courts in Washington strive to make child custody determinations in the best interests of the children. And in most cases, that means keeping both parents as involved as possible. It may not mean a perfect 50-50 split, but it usually means joint custody in some form.

What Are Parenting Plans And How Do They Work?

If you've never heard the term before, parenting plans are documents that lay out the agreed-upon custody arrangement for the foreseeable future. These plans can vary in complexity, but all parenting plans share three important elements, including:

  • A schedule showing which parent the children will live with at any given time and when they'll be there (could include special provisions for holidays)
  • An agreement as to how the two parents will make important decisions about their children going forward
  • Guidelines for resolving any future disputes between parents

Your parenting plan should be drafted and negotiated with the help of your lawyer. If you and the child's other parent can reach an agreement outside the courtroom, most judges will honor that agreement (assuming it meets the best interests of the child). If no agreement can be reached, the final decisions will be left to the judge - which ultimately leaves parents with less control over the outcome of the case.

Child Custody Cases Involving Unmarried Parents

More couples are choosing to have children without getting married to one another. If the couple later decides to part ways, the child custody process will be much the same as it is for married parents getting a divorce (it will likely include a parenting plan).

That being said, unmarried fathers often need to take the extra step of establishing paternity. Maternity is assumed, even when the mother is unmarried, because she gave birth to the child or children. For men, however, paternity is only assumed when the man is married to the mother.

Before he can pursue custody rights, an unmarried father must establish paternity. This can usually be done by signing an acknowledgement/affidavit of paternity or by taking a DNA test (if necessary).

Discuss Your Custody Case With An Attorney For Free

Located in Port Orchard, the Newbry Law Office helps clients with a variety of family law issues, including child custody. To take advantage of a free initial consultation, call our firm at 360-244-4205, text 360-329-7530 or fill out our online contact form.

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