Custody FAQs

Custody FAQs

How does the Judge decide which parent should have primary custody of the children?

The Judge looks at who has been the children’s primary caregiver. Which parent gets them up in the morning, makes breakfast, makes their lunch, takes them to/from daycare/school, helps with homework, prepares meals, gives baths, takes them to the doctor appointments etc. Often this is determined by the parents’ work schedules.

How does the Judge decide the visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent?

The Judge looks at the history of your parenting.  If you and your spouse have always shared the parenting responsibilities equally, the Judge may allow more of a shared schedule.  If one parent has done more of the parenting responsibilities, the court may utilize the Yakima County Guidelines for visitation.  The Yakima County Guidelines are the typical every other weekend schedule with additional time in the summer and shared holidays.  If one parent has domestic violence issues or drug/alcohol problems, the Judge may limit his/her contact with the children.

If I am not the custodial parent, do I have any rights?

Yes. One parent or the other must be designated as the custodial parent for state and federal statues which require a designation of determination of custody. However, as a general rule, the other parent has joint decision making authority for medical, educational and religious issues.

What age do the children have to be to make their own decision about with which parent they want to live?

Children do not get to choose with whom they want to live until they are 18. The reason behind this is that if we gave children the power to choose, they would be going back and forth between their parents’ homes on a frequent basis, depending on whose rules they liked better at any given time. When children are 15, 16 or 17, the court may listen to their input (through a counselor or Guardian Ad Litem), but they do not get to decide.

What if I want to relocate with the children?

Washington has very strict rules about relocating with children. If you have a temporary or final parenting plan, you must give notice of your intended relocation. If you fail to do so, the Judge may require you to move back. Your spouse or former spouse has 30 days to object to your request to relocate. If it is opposed, there will be a court hearing at which time the Judge evaluates several important factors in deciding whether to allow the relocation.

Can someone other than a biological parent get custody?

Yes, but the circumstances must warrant it. Specifically, you must be able to prove that both of the biological parents are unfit or that keeping the children with the biological parents would result in actual detriment to them. It is a difficult burden to meet.