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How to Get Sole Custody in Washington

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Posted By Cohen Family Law | April 12 2022 | Uncategorized

Sole custody is relatively rare in a divorce case in Washington, as the courts generally believe that it is in a child’s best interest to remain in contact with both parents after a divorce. However, the courts may grant a sole custody request if there is a good reason, such as if the child would potentially be unsafe in the care of the other parent. Use this information to improve your chances of getting sole custody in Washington.

What Is Sole Custody?

Sole custody in Washington means full legal custody and/or physical custody (parenting time) of a child. It grants 100 percent of the custodial rights of a child to one parent. This can mean the right to make important decisions for the child, such as health care and education decisions, and/or the right to have the child physically under the parent’s roof. With a sole custody agreement, the noncustodial parent may or may not have visitation rights, depending on the case. 

A joint custody arrangement, on the other hand, divides legal and/or physical custody between both parents. Joint custody arrangements are much more common in Washington and throughout the country. While one parent may still receive primary child custody, such as 75 percent instead of 25 percent, the noncustodial parent would still have custodial rights part of the time. The parents would share the children based on a parenting time schedule set by the court.

Can You Give Yourself Sole Custody?

Although it is possible to create your own child custody or parenting time arrangement with your co-parent and without the intervention of a judge, it is less likely if you are seeking sole custody since you and your ex-spouse must work together and agree to the terms of the arrangement. If you and your ex do not agree on sole custody, your case will be determined by a judge.

If your ex-spouse does not want custody of your child, however, you may be able to reach a settlement agreement giving you sole custody. If your spouse never responds to the divorce petition at all, you could also receive sole custody, as you will have a default divorce and the judge will grant all of your requests. 

When Do the Courts in Washington Assign Sole Custody?

Sole custody is relatively uncommon in Washington, but it is not unheard of. The courts will only grant 100 percent custody to one parent if it is not in the child’s best interest to remain in the care of the other parent. Examples include:

  • The other parent is not involved in the child’s life
  • One parent lives a long distance away
  • Mental health conditions that interfere with child care
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual assault
  • Child abuse or neglect 
  • Drug or alcohol abuse 
  • Incarceration

To get sole custody, you would have to make this request and support it with evidence as to why it would be in your child’s best interest to remain with you full time and not your ex-spouse.

Tips for Getting Sole Custody in Washington

If your divorce involves domestic violence or another emergency, seek an emergency protective order by requesting a hearing right away. The courts can give you a temporary order to provide greater safety for you and your child while your divorce is pending. Then, when it is time to go to court for a child custody arrangement, prepare your arguments against your ex-spouse with assistance from a child custody lawyer in Clark County.

Hiring an attorney can greatly increase your odds of successfully achieving sole custody in your divorce or legal separation case. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence and documentation to support your argument, including a parenting or psychological evaluation, as well as represent you during a court hearing. To discuss a request for sole custody in Washington in further detail, call (360) 634-4872. Cohen Family Law, LLC offers free consultations.

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