Mediating Conflict,
Embracing Peace

What factors do courts consider when determining custody arrangements? P.1

In our last post, we spoke a bit about the current push by father’s rights advocates for joint custody presumptions. As we pointed out, joint custody may be the ideal scenario for children in general, but in practice it is not always actually in the best interest of children. It really depends on the specific circumstances of the case.

Washington state policy is that the best interests of children lies in whatever parenting arrangement “best maintains a child’s emotional growth, health and stability, and physical care.” This is usually accomplished when a child’s “pattern of interaction with a parent is altered only to the extent necessitated by the changed relationship of the parents or as required to protect the child” from harm.  

When it comes to making custody decisions, courts are required to look at specific factors to ensure that the arrangement is in the best interests of the children. Courts are required to award sole decision-making authority in cases where one parent has a limited mandated by law, both parents are opposed to joint decision-making; or when a parent has a reasonable objection to mutual decision-making.

In considering mutual decision-making, courts will consider whether there are any statutory limitations on the parent, the parent’s history of participation in decision-making, each parent’s geographic proximity to each other, and whether the parents are capable of cooperating in decision-making.

In terms of physical custody, courts are directed under state law to select an arrangement that encourages a “loving, stable, and nurturing relationship” with the child under the circumstances. We’ll look in our next post at additional factors courts consider for physical custody, and why it is important to be represented by an attorney when these decisions are being made.


RCW 26.09.187

RCW 26.09.002