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The main types of custody and visitation in Washington

On Behalf of | May 2, 2023 | Child Custody & Parenting Time |

When parents divorce or separate in Washington, they will have to decide about how they’ll split the time they spend with their children. This is known as custody and visitation, which are two distinct but related concepts.

Legal custody

When the child is growing up, their need guidance and direction in almost all aspects of their life, especially in the type of religion they should practice, education, and medical care. A provision under family law & divorce, legal custody pertains to who has the right to make decisions on behalf of the child.

Washington State law recognizes two types of custody: joint legal custody and sole legal custody. Joint legal custody means that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities in making decisions about their children’s upbringing. The court gives sole legal custodial rights to one parent, usually with whom the child will primarily reside with.

Physical custody

Physical or residential custody dictates where the child will live on a day-to-day basis. The parent who has physical custody is responsible for providing the child with a safe, secure and comfortable living environment. The court can award joint physical custody, meaning that the child will divide time between both parents’ homes or sole physical custody that grants one parent legal control over where the child lives.

Visitation rights

Washington State also recognizes visitation rights for non-custodial parents. Visitation allows the non-custodial parent to spend quality time with their child without having legal decision-making power. Depending on what the couples agreed upon, visitation may include regular visits on certain days of the week or other holidays such as birthdays or vacations.

There are some circumstances where the court can order virtual or supervised visitation when they believe that the child’s safety or well-being may be at risk if left alone with their non-custodial parent. Virtual visitation occurs over video conferencing, while supervised visitation requires another adult to be present in the room.

When it comes to custody and visitation in Washington State, parents must come up with an agreement that works best for their family and ensures that both can remain an active part of their children’s lives. If they find it hard to come up with a suitable agreement on their own, other parties like a mediator, arbitrator or a family law judge can help them.