How Does A Washington Judge Determine A Child’s Best Interests?

In Washington State, a judge will decide on child custody and visitation based squarely upon the child’s best interests. But what does that mean, and how does a WA court determine what, exactly, are in a child’s best interests? Very simply, a child custody decision should take into consideration the living situation that would most likely give the child or children in question the healthiest, most emotionally secure, and loving outcome despite the separation of their parents. While a child’s best interests usually involve continuing a close and loving relationship with both parents, this is not always the case.

While some think that deciding child custody depending on a child’s best interests is vague, in reality, it gives families a wide array of solutions that fit individual families and the individual needs of children.

A number of factors go into determining the best interests of a child in a Washington State child custody case. Some of these factors may include:

•    The mental stability of each parent.
•    The physical health of each parents.
•    Any parental drug abuse, alcohol abuse, or addiction.
•    Any evidence of past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
•    The parent’s schedule and lifestyle.
•    Each parent’s past level of responsibility toward raising the child.
•    Each parent’s future ability to responsibly raise the child.
•    The express wishes of the child (based on the child’s  maturity).
•    The wishes of the parents.
•    The relationship and closeness, and strength of each parent with the child.
•    The relationship and closeness, and strength of other members of each household with the child (such as new spouses, new partners, siblings, and other relatives).
•    The child’s preference for school, location, and community.
•    The child’s need for a sustained environment.
•    The child’s religious and cultural needs.

It should be noted that the needs and best interests of the child may change over the years – and that a major life change for a parent or a child could require a change in the parenting plan.
Molly B. Kenny's Bellevue family law office is conveniently located on Lake Bellevue Drive, making it easily accessible to those in the greater Seattle area. Our divorce and child custody lawyers help men and women get the information, guidance, and compassionate representation they need.
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