Divorcing couples with children often find it difficult to agree when it comes to the care and well-being of the children post-divorce. We’ve all heard the stories of parents arguing over which parent is best suited to meet a child’s needs and how much time a child should spend with each parent. Even when a child custody agreement is reached, in or out of court, there can still be a lot of tension between the parents, which in turn affects the children.
Because of this tension, many states have implemented statutes that encourage shared parenting, where both parents are equally involved in the child’s life post-divorce. The National Parents Organization recently released its 2019 report card, evaluating every state’s shared-parenting statute based on a list of 21 factors. While many states have yet to reform their statutes to encourage equal shared parenting, the NPO found that there has been a lot of improvement since its initial report five years ago.
According to the report, Washington received a ‘C’ grade for its shared parenting statutes, listing various positives and negatives. The NPO found positives in that Washington laws allow for both joint legal and physical custody during temporary orders and that courts can use three methods to deal with the decision-making authority issue in permanent parenting plans. While the NPO was pleased that the wording of Washington’s statutes support shared parenting, the NPO found it problematic that Washington did not have a statutory preference for or presumption of shared parenting.
Studies have shown that children often benefit from having both parents equally involved in their parenting. Based on this, divorce courts will likely continue to encourage shared parenting when making child custody decisions. However, parents have to seek an outcome that they believe is in their child’s best interests. An attorney may be helpfully in crafting compelling legal arguments to support those outcomes.