Puyallup Child Custody Attorneys Serving all of Pierce County

Because NOTHING is more important than your kids.

We are Puyallup child custody attorneys and Pierce County, WA divorce lawyers.  If you or someone you care about is suddenly in a Puyallup child custody fight, we can help level the playing field. 

Talk to a child custody lawyer in Puyallup, WA today!

Child Custody in Washington State

                Washington child custody law is not a set of firmly defined principles that are intended to apply to every conceivable situation. Rather the law is composed of a set of overarching principles designed to be applied to unique situations by the commissioners and judges of the legal system. This places a large degree of discretion with the Trier of fact who will be making the decision in your case.

When making a determination for child custody in Washington State, the basis is going to be what is in the “best interests of the child(ren).” One of the most important issues involved in any Puyallup custody case is ensuring that the court hears the right information.  Our Puyallup child custody attorneys will make sure that your proposals are properly detailed and presented in court.

The term "best interests of the child" generally refers to the considerations the court will make when attempting to establish the final orders that will provide for the safety and well-being of the child and who is the person best suited to care for them. 

There are many factors the court will consider, but the paramount concerns will always be the safety and well-being of the child.  During your initial consultation, one of our Puyallup child custody lawyers will review a number of different custody issues with you after learning more about you and your children.

With the wide degree of discretion given to the commissioners and judges it becomes necessary to understand how these decisions are made.  This is where our Puyallup divorce attorneys can really make a dramatic difference in your child custody case.  Many divorce and child custody cases are won and lost based on how your evidence is presented to the judge.

When making an initial determination of the custody of the child the court is going to make a determination which parent has spent the “most waking hours” with the children over the last year.  In most situations, the person who has spent the most time with the child will also be the person who has carried out the primary functions of a parent.

With the congruence of these factors the courts determination is intended to reflect the “status quo” of the parties conduct.  There are several factors the court will take into consideration when attempting to determine a final parenting plan, to include: the abuse of drugs or alcohol by the parties; the criminal history of the parties;  or there are restricting factors under RCW 26.09.091 relating to a persons’  physical, sexual or emotional abuse, abandonment, or  history of acts of domestic violence

In addition to the information provided to the court by the parties or their attorneys, the court may appoint a specialist to investigate the child’s situation.  These professionals are called Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA’s) or Guardian Ad Litem’s (GAL’s).  The CASA or GAL is the “eyes and ears of the court, outside the court” appointed to serve as the child’s advocate.

They will be appointed to investigate the circumstances of the child, and the parties.  They will generally interview all of the parties and other relevant witnesses and view the interaction of the parties with the children. The advocate will provide written reports to the court and testimony as required to assist the Trier of fact in reaching their final decision.  The costs for these professional s may be allocated to the parties by the court according to their ability to pay the costs.

  • When a special advocate is appointed by the court their determinations can have a great deal of influence with the court.  Our Puyallup child custody attorneys are prepared to represent your best interests with the court and their appointed advocates.

                A parenting plan is the formal document which details the custody arrangements of the child. The document allows the parties to avoid future conflicts by providing guidelines to follow in the custody and responsibilities for the child.  The parenting plan designates the party the child is scheduled to reside with the majority of the time.

This party becomes the residential parent of the child and by default the other party becomes the non-residential party. The parenting plan provides sections for custody of the child both before and after the child starts school and when the child will reside with each party during school breaks, holidays, special occasions, winter vacation and the summer.

The parenting plan will also designate if there are any restrictions on a party for their visitation or decision making regarding the child. Upon adoption by the court or agreement of the parties the parenting plan becomes the legally binding document which defines the rights and responsibilities of the parties to the custody of the child(ren).

  • Establishing a parenting plan that provides for the safety and well being of your child, while also allowing appropriate contact with the parties, requires special attention to the principles the court will apply. Please contact one of our Puyallup child custody attorneys to evaluate your unique situation and assist you in establishing a successful parenting plan.

An existing parenting plan can be modified upon motion of one of the parties allowed residential time with the child. There are two general types of modification.

A major modification results in a change in the parenting plan of more than 24-full days per year. The court will require an adequate cause hearing prior to allowing a trial on a major modification. At the adequate cause hearing the court will make a determination whether there has “been a substantial change in circumstances” since the parenting plan was adopted.  

Without a substantial change in circumstances the court will not consider a major modification of the parenting plan and the motion will be denied. If the court determines there has been a substantial change in circumstances a trial will be set to determine a parenting plan for the child.

During this process, temporary orders may be sought by either party to determine where the children should reside and who shall have visitation prior to the final determination.  

At the trial the court will retain the prior parenting plan unless there are one of these factors present:

1) The parties agree to the modification;

2) The child has been integrated into the family of the petitioner with the consent of the other parent in substantial deviation from the parenting plan;

3) The child’s present environment is detrimental to their emotional, physical or mental well being, or;

4) The court has found the nonmoving parent in contempt of court at least twice within three years because the parent failed to comply with the residential time provisions in the court-ordered parenting plan, or the other parent has been convicted of custodial interference in the first or second degree. See RCW 26.09.260.

A minor modification does not result in a change in the residence where the child is scheduled to reside a majority of the time and does not exceed 24-full days per year.

These cases still require a substantial change in circumstances of either parent or the child, but the court will not require the consideration of the other 4 factors listed above (Agreement, integration, detrimental environment, or contempt).

The court will consider the motion for a minor modification If there has been a substantial change in circumstance of either parent or the child and the change:

1) Does not exceed twenty-four full days in a year, or;

2) is based on a change of residence of the parent with whom the child does not reside the majority of the time or an involuntary change in work schedule by a parent which makes the residential schedule in the parenting plan impractical to follow, or;

3) Does not result in a schedule that exceeds ninety overnights per year in total, if the court finds that, at the time the petition for modifications is filed , the parenting plan does not provide reasonable time with the parent with whom the child does not reside a majority of the time, and further, the court finds that it is in the best interests of the child to increase residential time with the parent in excess of the residential time period under the first provision of this section. However the court will impose the factors for a major modification if the party has previously been granted a motion for a minor modification in the last 2-years.

  • The modification of a parenting plan requires considerable attention to the legal requirements and proofs necessary for the adoption of a successful parenting plan.  If the court finds that a modification was brought in bad faith the court may require the moving party to pay the attorney fees of the non-moving party.  The assistance of an experienced Puyallup child custody attorney should be sought at the earliest stages to make certain your case is presented in the best manner possible. 

Our Puyallup child custody attorneys are here to help.

Call now for a free initial consultation.