Olympia Lawyers Handling Changes to Child Custody
Parenting plans setting forth a residential schedule try to anticipate foreseeable changes that may occur in a child’s life. For example, the parenting plan will address changes to the residential schedule that will need to occur when the child starts school. Sometimes, however, unexpected changes happen. There are also times when mothers and fathers fail to act in the best interests of their child and engage in conduct which places the child in harm’s way. When unanticipated changes or dangerous circumstances occur, a parent can ask the Court to change the current child custody arrangement. Such cases can involve complicated matters of fact and law. It is, therefore, important that you retain an experienced family law attorney to assist you. Our Olympia lawyers understand the gravity of such situations and they will ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. Call today to schedule an initial consultation. We also serve Tacoma and other Washington areas.
Attorneys helping Olympia & Tacoma parents to file for a change of custody when it is in a child’s best interests
Washington parents may request changes to a child custody arrangement only when there has been a substantial change in circumstances for the parent or the child since the current Parenting Plan was entered and when the proposed modification is in the best interests of the child. (A change in a parent’s military duties by itself, is not a substantial change in circumstances.)
The Court first holds an Adequate Cause hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to justify holding a hearing on the Petition. If the Court concludes that the evidence doesn’t show substantial change or the best interest of the child, the Court will dismiss your Petition. Lawyers are critical in presenting the evidence in the most effective way to overcome this barrier. The requirements are technical and specific and require a prepared factual case to be made and presented to the Court.
If you are asking the Court to greatly change the Parenting Plan that is considered to be a “major modification” and, absent parental agreement, can only be granted in very limited circumstances generally involving danger to the child or persistent custodial interference, child abuse, or sexual abuse. A change in custody – meaning a change in the child’s residence – is the most common major modification requested by parents.
All other changes are considered to be “minor modifications”. Substantial changes in circumstances that can support a request for a minor modification can include things such as:
- A parent moving to another area (which can interfere with the child schooling)
- A change in a parent’s work schedule
- The child getting older and being ready to spend longer periods away from the primary residence
- A special event that falls during the time the child is supposed to be with the other parent
- The failure of the other parent to exercise residential time for one year or longer
Even if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, the Court may only grant the request for a new arrangement if it finds that the change is in the child’s best interests. The Court applies the same factors as it did during the hearing on the initial Parenting Plan, with greatest weight given to the strength and nature of the child’s relationship with both parents.
If the judge believes that a minor modification is in the best interests of the child, there are still limits on the size of the changes the Court can make to the residential schedule. At the end of this process the Court will enter a new Parenting Plan, Residential Schedule and Custody Order setting out the approved modifications.
When analyzing a request for modification, the Court will typically look to evidence which is documented or otherwise objective. Courts tend to rely less on “he said, she said” claims. Changes to custody involve complicated issues of fact and law. It is important that you retain a lawyer to handle such matters.
Our Olympia family law attorneys assist with changes to child custody arrangements. At your initial consultation, we will gain an understanding of what has transpired and give you our opinion as to the nature of your case. We will quickly file your Petition with the Court. If the matter is an emergency, then we will request that the Court hear the case on an expedited basis. If there is “adequate cause” for the requested modification, the Court will hold a hearing, at which the Court may make a temporary change, pending trial. The Court may also order that no change will be made for the time-being, but that a trial must be held to determine whether the requested change is warranted. Our firm will then use the discovery process to gather needed evidence. If a resolution is not reached, then we will protect your rights through the trial process. We understand the serious nature of such a situation, and we are ready to assist you. Contact us today.
Our firm also serves the Thurston County cities of Lacey, Tumwater, and Yelm, the Pierce County cities of Tacoma, Puyallup, and Lakewood, the Lewis County cities of Centralia, Chehalis, the King County cities of Seattle, Auburn, Bellevue, Burien, and Federal Way, as well as other areas in Washington, including Grays Harbor, Mason, Cowlitz, and Pacific Counties.
Olympia lawyers providing quality service to parents who are trying to change child custody
If the facts of your case warrant a change in child custody, then you have enough to be concerned about. The service you receive from your lawyer should not be another source of worry. Our Olympia lawyers understand that they are here to serve you. This is why they make client communication a priority and ensure that your questions are timely answered. We are honored to serve our community and we take pride in the level of service offered by our firm.