Most people going through or divorce or non-marital split benefit from making a clean break. The fewer times they have to interact with their former partner, the less likely they are to experience emotional upheaval and interpersonal conflict. For those who share minor or otherwise dependent children, however, a clean break usually isn’t an option. Divorcing and separating parents with minor children typically see each other somewhat frequently for parenting time exchanges.
Most people have heard horror stories about one parent who intentionally interferes in the relationship that the other has with their children. The idea that one parent could seek sole custody to impede the relationship that the other has with the children is certainly an upsetting notion. Is that scenario likely in a Washington divorce or separation?
Sole custody is an unusual outcome
Most families preparing for separation or divorce will try to reach an agreement on custody matters whatever possible. Sometimes, sole custody is an option because the parents agree it would be the best outcome. When one parent has unstable circumstances or a very demanding job, they may recognize that the other parent in the family is in a better position to meet the children’s needs. Parents can agree to sole custody arrangements and have the Washington courts approve those terms. However, during custody litigation, sole custody orders are less common.
A judge presiding over a family law case in Washington wants to reach a conclusion that is in the best interests of the children. A judge won’t care about the conflict between the parents so much as they will about preserving the parent-child relationships. Factors including the bond each adult has with the children and someone’s living circumstances will influence the exact terms of a custody order.
A sole custody arrangement would likely only occur in cases involving unusual factors. Substantiated claims of child abuse, issues with substance abuse and other scenarios that would endanger the children might inspire a judge to award one parent sole custody. Even when one parent asks for sole custody, the other will have an opportunity to convince the courts that their continued involvement with the children would be best for the kids.
Those who understand the way that the courts approach custody matters may be less likely to make concessions that could have a negative long-term impact on their relationship with their children. Seeking legal guidance and setting achievable goals may help people feel more satisfied with the final outcome of their Washington custody proceedings.