While mothers often received preference in child custody cases of years past, today courts determine custody without considering gender. However, in Washington, the parent who generally spends more time caring for the child may receive more time with the child in the parenting plan.

If you are a father seeking physical parenting time with your child in Washington state, review the factors that judges use to create a parenting plan that serves the child’s best interests.

The best interest standard

Family courts in Washington look at whether each parent can:

  • Provide the financial support the child needs
  • Use good judgment and decision-making
  • Support and participate in the child’s schooling
  • Establish a stable home and provide for the child’s needs
  • Commit to a loving permanent relationship with the child

Factors that jeopardize parenting time

A 2016 report by the Washington Center for Court Research found that in 65.4% of families with a state parenting plan, the child spends more time with the mother than with the father. Only 19.5% of families reported 50/50 shared parenting time that year.

The data indicated that parents who have a smaller share of parenting time are more likely to have certain risk factors. These include:

  • Chemical dependency: 5.8% of fathers and 2% of mothers
  • Child abuse or neglect: 4% of fathers and 1.3% of mothers
  • Domestic violence: 4.4% of fathers and 0.5% of mothers
  • Untreated mental health issues: 3.6% of fathers and 0.8% of mothers

In 24.1% of households with no risk factors, mothers and fathers shared custody equally.

Before requesting custody as a father in Washington state, you should prepare documentation to support your history of providing for the child’s daily needs. In addition, if you have previous risk factors such as a history of substance use disorder, ask your doctor to attest to your commitment to recovery and your ability to establish a safe, stable home. In cases with no risk factors, legal precedent supports equal parenting time for both parents.