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Washington Child Custody Laws

Figuring out child custody arrangements can be a difficult legal process, often putting children in the middle of a contentious divorce proceeding. Most states, including Washington, offer the option of joint custody but also consider the wishes of the child when determining custody. Additionally, Washington's child custody laws recognize the visitation rights of grandparents.

Parenting Plans in Washington

The first thing to know about child custody laws in Washington is the correct terminology. Washington child custody laws don't use the terms "custody" and "visitation." Instead, they refer to these arrangements collectively as a "parenting plan."

A family law judge will determine whether a parenting plan provides the most loving and stable relationship between the children and each parent. The judge is likely to grant more time with the parent who was seeing to the daily needs of the children before the parents filed a divorce petition. If parents can't agree on a parenting plan themselves, there will be a trial in which a judge will create a parenting plan.

Washington Child Custody Laws: The Basics

While reading a statute is important, it can often be a daunting task since statutory law is usually written in outdated or legalistic language. For this reason, it's beneficial to read an overview of the statute as well. In the following table you can find just that - an overview of child custody laws in Washington and links to relevant statutes.


Washington Revised Code Section 26.09.181, et seq. (Parenting Plans)

What Should a Parenting Plan Cover?

A parenting plan should include:

  • Where and with which parent the child will live;
  • How the parents will make decisions regarding the child; and
  • How future issues between the divorcing parents will be resolved.
What Factors Will the Court Use to Approve a Parenting Plan?

The primary factor used to make decisions about child custody is the child's best interests. In determining the child's best interests, the judge will consider each parent's ability to:

  • Maintain a stable, loving relationship with the child;
  • Provide for the child's basic needs;
  • Be involved with the child's educational needs;
  • Exercise good judgment; and
  • Financially support the child.
Grandparent Visitation Rights Recognized?

Yes, as per Section 26.09.240.

Related Statute(s)

Washington Revised Code Section 26.10.100, et seq. (Nonparental Actions for Child Custody)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Washington Child Custody Laws: Related Resources

For more information and resources related to this topic, please visit the links listed below.

Have Questions About Washington Child Custody Laws? Talk to an Attorney

Learning more about Washington's family laws, particularly those relating to child custody, can often lead you to even more legal questions. If you're dealing with a child custody matter in Washington, it's a good idea to consult with a local child custody lawyer who can help you in your efforts to act in the best interests of your child.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Custody & child visitation cases are emotional, and a lawyer can seek the best outcome
  • A lawyer can help protect your children's interests
  • Lawyers can seek to secure visitation rights

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