Legal Articles
Child Custody
Get Started Finding a Local Attorney Now

Simply fill out this form to connect with an Attorney serving your area.

Washington Child Custody

Washington state parents of minor children must create a parenting plan if they are getting divorced or splitting up. The parenting plan explains where the child will live, how visitation will be handled and which parent will have decision-making authority over the child. If parents, with the help of their child custody attorneys, cannot create a mutually agreeable parenting plan, then a judge will make these decisions based on the best interests of the child.

Parenting Plan Basics

Washington state law avoids using words like child custody. Instead, the state breaks custody into two pieces:

  • A residential schedule describes where the child resides and how a child's time is divided between each parent
  • Decision-making authority describes which parent is responsible for making choices on the child's behalf related to education, medical care, religion and other issues

In most cases, Washington courts prefer to have parents share the residential schedule and decision-making authority unless joint custody would be harmful to the child. If a child primarily lives with one parent, then the other parent will typically have visitation rights.

Both parents are bound by the parenting once it has been signed by the judge and filed with the court clerk. Changing the parenting plan will require one or both parents to show that there has been a major change in circumstances and that it is to the child's detriment if custody is not changed.


If a child's parents weren't married at the time of a child's birth, then the parents will have to establish paternity of the child before the court will rule on a parenting plan. There are a couple of ways to establish parentage, including:

  • The father can complete a Paternity Acknowledgement
  • Court hearing

Child Support

In Washington state, child support is calculated based on the combined gross income of the parents and how many children are being supported. The court is allowed to deviate from the child support guidelines if the calculation is inappropriate in a particular case.

Child support can also be adjusted based on a change in circumstances. These would include:

  • A significant change in one parent's income
  • A change in which parent the child spends more time with
  • A change in the child's financial needs (such as extraordinary medical or educational expenses)

Find & Hire Local Washington State Child Custody Lawyers

If you live in Seattle, Spokane or elsewhere in Washington, can help connect you with local family law lawyers in your area. To use our free service, call us at 877-913-7222 or fill out the form on this page. After you answer a few simple questions, we'll quickly match you with a local child custody attorney.