Whenever a divorce involves children, usually the most important consideration for both spouses is the final custody decision and the parenting time. The final decision on who will have primary custody of the child or children is made based on the child’s best interest. Every child is different, though, and if the child is very young, there are special issues or challenges we need to consider when creating a custody agreement.
Washington law doesn’t express a particular preference for either the mother or the father to have custody of a child. This is good news for fathers. The factors for best interest, though, specifically state that the decision of where the child is going to live will take into account “the child’s developmental level”, and if you look at the best interest factors under Washington law, there is obviously a heavy emphasis on which parent has been the one doing the majority of the parenting in the past. In many households, the mother is the one who tends to do the “heavy lifting” when a child is very young, and courts will take that into account.
Infants also present some interesting challenges in creating parenting schedules, just like babies themselves present challenges for parents. If you are getting a divorce and have an infant with your spouse, the parenting schedule for an infant is likely to end up looking totally different than a parental schedule for, say, a seven-year-old. Typically with an infant, the courts tend to create a parenting schedule that grants the non-custodial parent frequent, short visits. The idea is that having a schedule like this lets the non-custodial parent create a bond with the baby while not traumatizing the infant by keeping him or her away from the custodial parent for long periods of time.
The baby won’t be a baby forever, though. The parenting schedule will take this into account by giving the non-custodial parent gradually longer visitations, eventually working up to overnight visits. The older the child, the longer the time the non-custodial parent will probably be allowed to have the child.
The marital residence can also come into play, in a round-about way. Courts will sometimes take stability for the children into account when deciding who gets the house in a divorce. Judges do this because there is an effort to keep a child in the same school and in the same environment with the child’s friends. Obviously if the child is an infant, this is not a problem.
Divorces involving a very young child or infant present unique issues that you won’t see with an older child. We have extensive experience helping our clients create a parenting schedule that is structured around the specialized needs of their babies. Contact us today at (253) 272-9459 to talk about your child’s current schedule and the future.