Why You Shouldn’t Fight Over Custody
Sometimes, a word is just a word.
In Washington State, divorcing couples often end up fighting over the word “custody,” in particular the phrase “designated custodial parent.” In fact, though, for most people, it’s a non-issue — hardly worth even a second thought, let alone a court battle.
Custody, per se, doesn’t really exist in Washington. Here, negotiated parenting plans establish how the child or children’s time will be divided, as well as who will make decisions regarding the children’s education and religion, and other pertinent issues. But when writing that plan, the parents have to decide which of them will be designated as the child’s official “custodial parent.” Too often, this rather meaningless term becomes an unnecessary point of contention.
Why unnecessary? Because the only reason state law requires this designation is so the federal government can determine aid. Both parents can’t claim the child when applying for assistance with food or medical costs, for instance. When the child goes to college, the designated parent will be the one whose income is considered for the purposes of financial aid, as well.
The only other reason to be concerned with custody is this: if the custodial parent decides to move, he or she most likely will be able to take the child along. The non-custodial parent can object, but he or she bears the burden of proof. Unless the person challenging the move can convince the courts that moving would be bad for the child, the courts are probably going to allow it.
Save your energy – Here is my take!
So, if one parent or the other intends to move, or if either intends to apply for federal aid, who gets custody might be worth considering. Otherwise, a good attorney will advise you not to waste your time or energy worrying about this non-issue.
Perhaps because “custody” is a loaded word, however — loaded with baggage from days gone by, when the courts took a much less egalitarian view of parenting than today — I see clients all the time who want to fight over it. When I explain that the term is essentially meaningless in Washington, they don’t always believe me at first, especially if their (misguided) friends and family members are telling them otherwise.
Divorce is already stressful enough. Why draw the battle lines around custody when you have other, more important, issues to consider?
Why You Shouldn’t Fight Over Custody | Copyrighted Material of the Quiroga Law Office, PLLC