Sometimes, a parent will have unofficial custody of a child without a court order. The following takes a look at child custody without court order, and what the benefits are of officially (legally) having custody of your child.

When No Court Order is In Place

A verbal or written agreement (that wasn't entered with the courts) sometimes exists and makes for perfectly fine arrangement for child custody, without going to court. However, it can be problematic for some parents.

For example, if one parent wants visitation rights, but no court order was established, then the custodial parent may deny visitation. Fathers’ rights are of note in this case, especially if the father does not have primary custody.

Additionally, a child custody written agreement can bar a parent from moving the child out of state. Otherwise, the custodial parent can legally move without adhering to Washington State’s relocation laws, as made clear in Washington’s Family Law Handbook.

Benefits of Filing a Parenting Plan with the Court

If you do not have an official court order regarding who has custody of your child, there are a number of negative consequences that may result. On the other hand, the benefits of filing a parenting plan with Washington family courts are numerous.

For a custodial parent, filing a parenting plan that legally gives the parent custody can also be a precursor to establishing mandatory child support payments from the noncustodial parent. For a noncustodial parent, filing a parenting plan can legally establish visitation rights, or even shared custody of the child.

You should file your parenting plan petition with the county court where your child lives. According to, filing a parenting plan with the court costs between $200 and $250. Sometimes this fee may is waived if one cannot afford it.

Do I Need an Attorney to Establish Child Custody?

If you unofficially have custody of your child and would like to make it official under the law, then you should consider investing in the services of a legal professional, especially when dealing with child custody laws for unmarried parents.

A family law attorney can help you to file your petition with the court, and can assist you in presenting your case before a judge. Additionally, if you need help establishing child support payments, an attorney can assist you with that, too.

At The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, our family law attorneys understand how important child custody is to your and your child’s lives. For help understanding Washington family law, call us today at 425-460-0550. 

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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