The state of Washington adopted a shared parenting legislative model in 2007. This means that judges hearing custody cases must attempt to award joint custody whenever possible, as long as such a decision is determined to be in the best interests of the child(ren) involved. In 2017, there are still many states that do not follow this model. In this post, we will examine what this means for Washington parents.
Shared Custody vs. Visitation
Before the enactment of a presumptive shared (or joint) custody standard, Washington courts preferred to award sole physical custody to one parent. They usually granted visitation, but this antiquated model essentially amounted to a “winner” and “loser” in contested custody cases. Thankfully, Washington state was one of the first in the nation to collect data on the children of divorced parents and amend long-held laws governing custody and support.
Advocating for Two-Parent Families
These days, Washington remains a leader in national custody progression. Until the late 1980s, most states, including Washington, operated according to the “Tender Years Doctrine,” which mostly prioritized the bond between mothers and their children over that of fathers and their children. It seemed to codify that fathers were inferior when it came to parenting, which Washington research has thoroughly debunked.
In fact, a study shows that “over 70 percent of high-school dropouts and pregnant teen girls come from fatherless homes as well as the 80-85 percent of male teens in juvenile justice centers and more than 90 percent of men in prison, all from fatherless homes.”
Equitable Parenting in Washington
Since becoming an equitable parenting state, Washington has made great advances in equalizing custody among mothers and fathers. Across the entire state, 46% of children of divorce spend a minimum of 35% parenting time with their biological fathers. This is significantly higher than the national average of 17.5%.
Getting Legal Support
If you are considering divorce and are worried about what that might mean in terms of custody of your children, John L. Davis PLLC can help. Contact our Vancouver office today at (360) 597-4740 to schedule a consultation with an experienced and knowledgeable family law, divorce, and child custody attorney.