This may seem like a relatively simple process for a judge most of the time. However, it can be extremely difficult, requiring the examination of several major factors.
Bellevue child custody lawyers are often called upon to assist in painting the appropriate picture for the judge when either parent retains services. Custody decisions are made all too often without regard for the unique needs of each individual family.
Many times, judges will simply look at certain statistics about how much time one spouse or another spends with their children to decide who should get them. In other cases, they’ll make the wrong call because they are basing custody solely upon what seems fair rather than considering the child’s best interests.
There is no “one size fits all” solution here. Each case is going to be different based upon numerous considerations that a Bellevue child custody lawyer can help you present to the judge.
It’s important to note that not every custody situation turns ugly. There are plenty of examples of both parents remaining civil and reaching a favorable outcome with the child’s best interests in mind.
Both parents come to an understanding and draft a fair parenting plan that accommodates their schedule and allows the children a fair amount of time with both parents. This is the ideal situation, and in almost every case, the judge gives the clients, along with their Bellevue child custody lawyers, a chance to work all of this out amongst themselves.
Washington State is different than most when it comes to child custody. Before we get into the specific criteria the judge uses to decide custody in the event that two parents can’t, it would be helpful if you understood the steps it takes to arrive at this decision-making process. If you’re new to the state, a Bellevue child custody lawyer can help with explaining the rules regarding custody.
Before a Judge Rules On Anything: Get the Facts from a Bellevue Child Custody Lawyer
There is no such thing as one parent being granted custody in Washington state. Instead, what’s known as a “parenting plan” is created. What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is a schedule that two divorced parents work out regarding how much time the child(ren) spends with each parent. Instead of parents being granted full, partial, temporary, sole, joint, or any other label regarding custody, the parenting plan establishes shared custody between both parents.
In most court cases, the parents and an individual representing them who is equal to a Bellevue child custody lawyer will attend court against the other parent. Each side will present their case and explain why they should receive custody. Your Bellevue child custody lawyer can help create these plans.
Many times, these custody battles turn into dogfights and become fairly hostile. Not only does this lead to a stressful situation in court, but it can also deteriorate the remainder of any civil relationship the parents had left.
Both sides often walk out of these cases exhausted, demoralized, and disillusioned. This is possible on either side, regardless of who wins the custody battle. It also drives the cost of Bellevue of child custody lawyers up because of the time and resources put into cases.
Beyond all of these negative elements, perhaps the worst outcome in these court battles is the fractured mental state of the children. In many cases, children are even forced to take the witness stand in a play by one side’s law team to gain the upper hand.
The tactics used in these cases that often leave the children in the middle being torn both ways are extremely damaging to young people. This is especially true in times when the children are much younger in age and unable to fully understand the gravity of what’s taking place.
When this happens, the kids sometimes feel like the situation is their fault, and they’re confused at why they’re being made to choose between one parent or the other. Washington state also took notice of this gross mismanagement of the children’s mental health and came up with a much healthier alternative.
When two parents come to court for a custody dispute in Washington, both parties bring their Bellevue child custody lawyer (or Spokane, Puyallup, or whatever the corresponding county or city is for the case). The judge will ask the parents if they’ve decided on a family plan yet.
If the answer is no, the two parties will recess and meet in an effort to come up with a fair parenting plan. This plan outlines the exact days each parent will have the child for the entire year that’s approaching. Holidays, birthdays, school vacations, and other days must be agreed upon as well, along with where the children will attend school and which parent will take them to and from school.
Additionally, the judge makes the parents come up with a plan for establishing a resolution should they ever have any disagreements. After the meeting, if they’re unable to agree on a parenting plan, the judge will decide one for them. This is when the judge must rely on their decision-making and the ability to examine all the proper areas of concern.
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Areas of Focus Your Bellevue Child Custody Lawyer Can Help You Present
The Ages of the Children
This is probably one of the most overlooked considerations by far. If there are extremely young children involved, then their well-being must always come first.
It is imperative that the custodial parent take care of the kids in a loving and caring manner with attention to all of their needs. The non-custodial parent has to understand that he/she won’t see them every day and therefore needs to have a strong commitment to spending quality time with them.
When the judge decides who the primary care parent is, the other parent is still responsible for shouldering their portion of the load regardless of whether the judge is forced to rule. When it comes to the case of younger children, the judge will typically grant custody to the parent who primarily cared for them during the marriage. It’s important for your Bellevue child custody lawyer to place plenty of focus on this.
Your Marital History
What kind of marriage did you two have prior to divorce? How long ago was it? Does either party still live with someone else or continue to associate with friends outside of the home?
Are there any concerns related to substance abuse or mental illness within the household? These could impact your ability to properly provide emotional support for your children. Sometimes the court will appoint a professional counselor to help evaluate the situation.
A Bellevue child custody lawyer can help navigate any situations where one parent or the other must satisfy any evaluations or assessments.
Ongoing Litigation Separate from Your Bellevue Child Custody Lawyer
The judge will also take into account where the divorce stands and the current relationship between the two parents. Who has possession of the house? How is the divorce going to end? They’ll examine the facts surrounding the divorce itself to come up with a clear picture of exactly what it was that led to the dissolution of the marriage.
Are there any special circumstances involving domestic violence, sexual assault, or psychological problems? CPS cases can be considered ongoing litigation as well.
This can also mean any type of protective order against one parent from another. Any of these situations will heavily influence the judge’s final decision.
If you’re involved with any of the situations listed above, it’s critical that you seek counsel from a Bellevue child custody lawyer. Remember, it’s their job to help guide you during times of peril or difficulty in your court case.
Where Do the Children Attend School?
Is there distance involved? Does transportation pose a problem?
Transportation arrangements really dictate the amount of time spent together. With longer distances comes less contact.
However, it’s also important that the children can remain in the school district they’ve been used to attending if possible. The judge will weigh on this as well when they make their final ruling.
Regardless, during this process in Washington, one important area is the judge feeling confident about either parents’ ability to provide meaningful services for the children.
The judge will need to know with certainty that the primary parent will have transportation or be able to get their child to and from school. When they say parenting plan, they mean just that – every detail, small and large, hashed out and decided and put on paper to be signed.
Who Pays for Daycare?
Daycare expenses account for roughly $4,000 per year. That doesn’t include food costs or clothing expenses. Unless you’ve got money saved up already, chances are neither of you will be able to afford high-quality childcare.
Nowadays, many families rely heavily upon grandparents’ assistance. Regardless, the judge will weigh more in favor of the parent that’s able to provide adequate daycare services for the children.
Remember that the goal of custody is to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the children involved. The good thing about Washington state is that the judge puts full attention to the well-being of the kids, and every category is covered with full certainty. Literally, the judge will leave no stone unturned.
During times when the judge is forced to rule on the parenting plan, it boils down to these specific decisions:
- Which parent is more able? When the judge uses the term able, this encompasses several areas of concern. Able means financially able, mentally, emotionally, and not held back by time restrictions.
- Financial well-being is important to the judge, but so is emotional well-being. Both of these fall under equal importance. For example, if one parent is a millionaire that can provide the children with anything and everything but always works, and the other parent is broke but has help from family members to provide the children with the things they need and will spend lots of quality time with them, the judge is most likely going to rule with the latter.
You Need an Experienced Bellevue Child Custody Lawyer on Your Side
Don’t settle for anything less than a top-notch attorney if you need a Bellevue child custody lawyer. Nothing is more important than the well-being of your children, and you need someone who is experienced in family law. Aberdeen Law Firm can help you gain the decision you deserve when it comes to the safety and future of your kids.