Legal Information: Washington

Custody

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Updated: 
August 10, 2017

How will a judge make a decision about decision-making authority?

All decisions about custody are supposed to be based on the “best interest” of the child.*  A custody decision (as written into a parenting plan) will decide whether to give one parent sole decision-making authority or to give both parents mutual decision-making authority. Below, we discuss how a judge will decide what to order.

If the parents agree on how to divide up decision-making authority regarding the children's education, health care, and religious upbringing, the judge will approve this parenting plan if:


If the parents cannot agree on how to divide up decision-making authority in their proposed parenting plans, the judge can order sole decision-making authority to one parent if:


When deciding whether or not to order mutual decision-making, the judge will consider:


  • the history of each parent's participation in deciding issues regarding the children's education, health care, and religious upbringing;
  • whether or not the parents have a demonstrated ability and desire to cooperate with one another in making decisions regarding the children's education, health care, and religious upbringing; 
  • how close the parents live to each other to the extent that it affects their ability to make timely mutual decisions; and
  • the existence of any limitation under RCW 26.09.191 (Note: The "limitations" could be due to a parent committing domestic violence, sexual assault, or child abuse or other factors).****

If a parent or someone with whom the parent lives has committed domestic violence, sexual assault, or child abuse, the judge must consider these factors when deciding decision-making.  For more information, see Can a parent who committed domestic violence, sexual assault, or child abuse get decision-making powers or parenting time?


* R.C.W. § 26.10.100

** R.C.W. § 26.09.187(2)(a); see R.C.W. § 26.09.184(5)(a)  

*** R.C.W. § 26.09.187(2)(b)

**** R.C.W. § 26.09.187(2)(c)