Of all the legal rights you have, few are more important than your rights as a parent. The outcome of a child custody case can affect your relationship with your children for years to come. Some child custody cases result in damage that is never undone. This is why it is important to consult with an experienced child custody lawyer about your legal rights as soon as possible. The sooner you have an attorney on your side, the better protected your parental rights will be.
What Is Conservatorship?
In WA, child custody is actually referred to as “conservatorship.” Conservatorship refers to the ability to make important decisions about the way that a child is raised. In WA, a court can award one parent sole conservatorship, which is equivalent to sole custody in other states. When parents share decision-making responsibilities, it is referred to as a “joint conservatorship.”
Child Custody During and After Divorce
If you and your spouse have minor children at the time of your divorce, your final divorce decree must address child custody. It is not always necessary to fight a bitter custody battle in front of a judge. Many couples are able to negotiate parenting plans that are best for their children. A good child custody lawyer will know how to negotiate these difficult issues and help parents put aside bitter feelings to do what is in the best interest of their children. Often, a family law attorney will have creative solutions that parents have not thought of. This is the benefit of hiring an experienced custody lawyer who has negotiated parenting plans before.
Of course, sometimes parents cannot agree. It might be necessary to take your custody issues to the judge and let the family court decide what is in the best interest of your children. This can be expensive, emotional, and difficult, but it is sometimes necessary to defend your parental rights. An experienced custody lawyer should be able to give you an honest assessment of what a judge is likely to do in your case. This can help you make decisions about whether you can negotiate a parenting plan or take your case to a judge.
How Legal Separation Affects Custody
A family court can also enter custody orders when the parents are legally separating without an official divorce. These orders can help parents understand their roles during the uncertain period of separation. Parents are less likely to have parenting disputes when there are clear court orders or parenting agreements in place. Children are likely to handle the transition better when there is a clear parenting schedule in place. The entire process of separation can be made easier by having clear parenting rules in place.
Custody When the Parents Were Never Legally Married
In many cases, the parents were never legally married at all. The court can still enter parenting orders that will help maintain consistency between two households. In these cases, the court must first establish paternity. This can be done by presumption (for example, if the father was listed on the birth certificate) or with a DNA test. Once the court establishes paternity, it must determine a parenting time schedule and determine who has the right to make legal decisions on behalf of the child. These issues are resolved the same for unmarried parents as divorcing parents. In both cases, the parents can enter a parenting agreement with the court, or choose to let the judge decide. A judge must use the best interests of the child to resolve custody disputes.
Custody Concerns for Same-Sex Couples
There are many new legal issues that have arisen in child custody law due to same-sex parenting. Establishing legal paternity can be a difficult step for LGBT parents. If both parents are listed on an adoption certificate, or one parent is the biological child, paternity is clear. But LGBT parents can have difficulty establishing their parental rights when they are not the biological parent, or when they are not a legal parent by adoption. In instances like this, they must sometimes make the often difficult case for being a “de facto” parent. An experienced LGBT custody lawyer can help you determine the best method of establishing your parental rights.
Once paternity is established, LBGT custody cases are treated much the same as any other child custody case. The family court must still use the “best interest of the child” standard to determine an access schedule and grant decision making authority.
Call Us Today to Speak with a Bellevue Child Custody Lawyer in Bellevue, WA
Parental rights are some of the most important legal rights you will ever defend. Our experienced child custody lawyers at Aberdeen Family Law know how to fight to protect your right to parenting time, legal decisions making authority, and other important parental rights. Call 206-790-6430 to schedule your consultation. Don’t delay – the sooner you have an attorney fighting on your side, the better protected your parental rights will be. This can prevent permanent damage to your parent-child relationship.