The state of Washington no longer uses the term “custody.” Instead, a child’s residential time with each parent is defined by a parenting plan. The only consideration in a parenting plan is the best interests of the child. Fairness to the parents is not a consideration. As a general guide, a parenting plan that best maintains a child’s emotional growth, health and stability and physical care is in the child’s best interest. Usually, the Court will seek to continue the existing pattern of interaction between a parent and child, altered only so much as the change in relationship between the parents makes necessary.
The following factors are balanced to determine what is in the child’s best interest with the first factor given the most weight: (1) the relative strength, nature and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent; (2) the agreements of the parties, provided they were entered into knowingly and voluntarily; (3) each parent’s past and potential for future performance of parenting functions, including whether a parent has taken greater responsibility for performing parenting functions relating to the daily needs of the child; (4) the emotional needs and development level of the child; (5) the child’s relationship with siblings and other significant adults, as well as the child’s involvement with his or her physical surroundings, school or other physical surroundings; (6) the wishes of the parent’s and the wishes of a child who is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to his or her residential schedule; and (7) each parent’s employment schedule.