Address: 6 S 2nd St, Suite 804, Yakima, WA 98901

CHILD CUSTODY & CHILD SUPPORT

Child custody and support are of the utmost importance to loving parents that are looking out for the best interests of the children.

The well-being of children is also our top priority at Justice Law Yakima. We look at all aspects of your and your children’s lives when advising you of options that will help maintain stability for your children and ensure they know they are loved, despite the changes the family is experiencing.

Parenting Plans & Residential Schedules

A parenting plan determines which parent your children will reside with and when. It also can determine who can make decisions on a variety of issues, such as non-emergency medical care, education, religion, and extracurricular activities. Parenting plans often designate a primary parent, which the children reside with the majority of the time. Though the court varies from it frequently, it may look to Yakima County Visitation Guidelines as a basis for determining the non-primary parent’s visitation. A very important consideration in the eyes of the court is maintaining stability for your children.  The court does not like disrupting the status quo and will look to the option that is least disruptive to the children. If both parents are equally involved in the children’s daily care, and medical and educational needs a court may decide a 50/50 residential schedule is most appropriate. However, many elements will be taken into consideration before the court issues its decision.

Justice Law Yakima also aids in helping parents modify parenting plans to ensure the ever evolving needs of your family are met. If relocation becomes an issue and it is not agreed upon, problems will likely evolve where legal expertise is necessary. Having a skilled attorney, experienced in child custody is critical to your success in achieving your parenting plan goals. For more information, call 509-494-8590 to speak with a Justice Law Yakima professional. A consultation may be scheduled.

Child Support

In Washington, child support is calculated using child support worksheets based on the Washington State Child Support Schedule. While out-of-court agreements on support can be reached, if based on reasonable factors, the court has strict guidelines they must follow when setting child support. However, that does not mean that child support is a clear cut issue. There are a number of variables that can come in to play, such as the most accurate calculation of each parent’s income and a downward deviation.

Child support is based on net income, which can be calculated in different ways, using pay stubs, tax returns, etc. The strong majority of sources of income are considered. However, a new spouse’s or domestic partner’s income may not be used to calculate a parent’s basic child support obligation. For calculation purposes, a non-working parent will not be calculated at zero income. Similarly, an underemployed parent (one earning less than their education or skillset warrants) may be calculated at a higher income than they are currently earning. Income can be imputed to these parents in a variety of ways. It may be as simple as calculating their income at minimum wage, or the court could look to their last wage/salary earned or even their income potential based on their training and education. Deviations can also be based on numerous factors, such as a new spouse’s or partner’s income (only under specific circumstances), children from other relationships, non-recurring income, extraordinarily high debt, or expenses and/or the residential schedule set forth in the parenting pan. Justice Law Yakima can be contacted at 509-494-8590 to set up a consultation.

Paternity

In Washington state, if a couple is married, a child born during marriage or within a 300 days after the marriage ends is assumed to be the child of the husband. Paternity becomes an issue when a father is not listed on the birth certificate. Paternity actions are often brought when child support is an issue, though they are also frequently filed by fathers seeking to assert their parental rights and have a relationship with their child. If both parents agree, an Acknowledgement of Parentage may be signed and filed with the state. Alternatively, a DNA test may need to be performed. Once paternity is determined, the father may be added to the birth certificate and/or a court order may be issued. This step is required for support to be ordered or a parenting plan to be entered. If you need help establishing paternity, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 509-494-8590.

Minor Guardianships

In 2021, Washington State replaced the existing non-parental custody law with its current minor guardianship law. Both laws involve third parties obtaining, or attempting to obtain guardianship, over a minor that is not their child. Under RCW 11.130, typically court may elect to appoint a guardianship for the child if:

  1. Appointing a guardian is in the best interests of a minor, and
  2. One of the following is true:
    1. Each parent of the minor agrees after being informed about what a guardianship means; or
    2. All parental rights have been terminated; or
    3. There is clear and convincing evidence that no parent of the minor is willing or able to exercise parenting functions as defined in RCW 26.09.004.

It is important to note that minor guardianships do not terminate a parent’s parental rights. However, they can limit that parent’s decision making ability in respect to their child. Additionally, while parents may have visitation, they can also be ordered to pay child support to the guardian of their child.

In a minor guardianship action, the parents may be appointed an attorney if they cannot afford one. The minor may also ask for an attorney if they are 12 or older. However, the Petitioner (the person asking to be appointed as the guardian) is not entitled to a court appointed attorney. A guardian ad litem will often be appointed to assess the parenting abilities and circumstances of all parties and aid in determining the best placement for the child. A Petitioner serious about obtaining guardianship should, at a minimum, consult with an attorney well versed in minor guardianship law. Justice Law Yakima is here to help. You can start by calling us at 509-494-8590.

Third Party Visitation

While parents are often the focal points of their children’s lives, there may be other people that also play a significant role in their wellbeing and development. The Washington State legislature recognized this and as of 2018, a non-parent may petition for visitation with a child if certain requirements are met. Per RCW 26.11.020 the petitioner must be a blood relative, adoptive family member, a step-parent or step-sibling (or a spouse of anyone in one of these categories). Additionally, the petitioner must have an “ongoing and substantial relationship with the child” and the child must be likely “to suffer harm or a substantial risk of harm” if visitation is not ordered. Proving these requirements when there is opposition from a parent or guardian can be challenging and is best handled with quality legal representation. If you are facing these challenges, Justice Law Yakima can help. Call us today at 509-494-8590 to get started.

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