Some Washington couples seem to be able to work together despite their pending divorce while others disagree and contest seemingly every single detail. Cooperation can provide significant benefits to both parents in terms of a less costly process and a separation that is less stressful to all involved. Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in the arena of child custody, which can become extremely nasty and, if not reigned in, can be harmful to the children.
Family court judges give great deference to child custody agreements in which the parents present a plan covering both physical and legal custody. Physical custody indicates where the child will live, and legal custody refers to important life decisions such as education, health and religion. Legal experts explain that for each type of custody, full custody may be awarded to one parent, or the two may share some form of joint custody although the percentages need not always be 50-50.
When the couple does not agree, the court will hold a hearing where each parent may present evidence in an effort to persuade the court of the respective plans being proposed. In arriving at its conclusion, the court will be guided by the standard of whatever is in the best interest of the child. Depending on the age and sophistication of the child, the court may hear from the child regarding his or her preferences.
Child custody litigation is seldom in anyone’s best interests. A family law attorney may offer guidance and counsel in helping form a parenting plan that respects both parties’ parental rights as well as what is best for the children.