A common issue that arises for couples who have parted ways in Washington State has to do with child support and custody. It is important to know the proper procedures and what the DCS can and cannot do before moving forward. People frequently wonder where they should turn in if there is a dispute with child support, custody or other family legal issues. Often, they make the mistake of thinking they should contact the Division of Child Support (DCS). DCS does not have the legal right to intervene in these situations.

Parents who are no longer together, but share a child, are advised to have a legal parenting plan. If parents can come to an agreement as to the care of the child, then it will be accepted as a court order. If they cannot, a judge will intervene for a fair allocation of custody. There are numerous avenues to getting assistance with a parenting plan, such as a Family Court Law Facilitator.

There are often instances in which there is a parenting plan in place, but one or both parents are not adhering to it. The Family Court Law Facilitator can help with this as well or the parents can contact a legal representative to try and straighten the matter out. Legal mediation is an option that might be beneficial to avoid a long, drawn out dispute that will do little more than harm the relationship of the parents and, by extension, damage the child. Parents can voluntarily seek mediation to settle child support or custody problems that have come up. The mediator is trained to help with conflict resolution.

Given the nature of conflicts and family legal issues that will come up with child support and custody, the attempt to settle the situation without rancor is usually best. Often, parents make the mistake of contacting the DCS thinking that can solve the problem. It is not the case. Not all situations can be dealt with in an agreeable manner. If it is not a case that can be settled through mediation, having assistance from a legal professional with extensive experience in family legal issues, and the state law is a decision that can benefit the parents and the child.

Source: DSHS.wa.gov, “Child Support Visitation & Custody,” accessed on Nov. 4, 2014