Like many other states, Washington has provisions in its law that are supposed to protect victims of domestic violence and abuse in child custody and parenting time disputes.
The goal is to avoid a situation where a parent has to choose between her child and staying safe from further abuse.
Washington’s protections are broad. Courts may not give decision-making authority to a parent who has a history of domestic violence, as that term is defined by state law.
This protection also applies if the parent has a record of child abuse, including a pattern of emotional abuse. Certain serious assaults also trigger these protections even in one-time incidents.
In addition to not awarding decision-making authority, the court should also restrict parenting time by ordering mandatory counseling, supervised visits or the like. In fact, this is true even if a parent is living with someone who has a track record of abuse.
A parent can only avoid these restrictions in certain narrow cases. For example, a parent would have to show that their bad behavior did not affect the child or that the behavior is very unlikely to happen again.
Washington’s domestic violence protections can apply to many situations
Parents on either side of the matter need to understand that a parent does not have to be convicted of or even charged with a crime for these protections to apply. Likewise, the abuse does not even have to involve the child involved in the custody case or the child’s other parent.
The good news is that this arrangement gives concerned parents, including domestic victims, the tools they need to stay safe. However, when going through a custody or parenting time dispute, a South King County parent will need to understand these options.
On the other hand, false or exaggerated accusations do happen. A parent on the receiving end of such allegations will want to understand his rights and mount an effective response.