Child Custody/Paternity Lawyers in Everett, WA (Snohomish County)
At Berner Law Group, PLLC, we treat each divorce with children/custody/paternity case as the high-priority matter it is. Few firms can match our commitment to this area of the law.
In any case involving children, the Court will order a parenting plan/residential schedule and has broad discretion in determining what will be in the best interests of the child(ren), after considering many objectives/factors set forth in the state statute (RCW 26.09.187), including but not limited to:
While the Court can consider the wishes of a child “who is sufficiently mature,” the Court is certainly not required to follow a child’s wishes in that regard; in Washington, there is no age upon which a child has the authority to determine with whom he/she resides or how often they see the other parent (this is a common misconception/myth).
In cases where issues regarding the parenting plan are disputed, the Court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) or parenting evaluator to investigate the issues raised by the parties and make recommendations to the Court regarding the final parenting plan. Each party is expected to contribute to the cost of a GAL/parenting evaluator, with the cost often divided based on the parties’ respective incomes.
When it comes to the issue of relocation by the primary/majority residential parent in custody cases, there are special statutes and procedural requirements that apply. Per RCW 26.09.430, a person “with whom a child resides a majority of the time” must provide notice to all other entitled to residential time with the child if he/she intends to relocate outside of the current school district at least 60 days prior to the intended relocation date. If a person entitled to residential time objects timely (within 30 days of receiving the Notice of Intended Relocation), the person seeking to relocate with the child may not do so without a Court Order. If no objection is filed, the parent seeking to relocate may relocate without further notice. The parent “with whom the child resides a majority of the time” benefits from a rebuttable presumption that the relocation will be allowed; however, that presumption may be rebutted by a showing that the detrimental effect of the relocation will outweigh its benefits to the child and the relocating person.
When considering a request to relocate, the Court evaluates the following factors per RCW 26.09.520:
In many cases involving parenting plan disputes, modifications (discussed separately under “Modification Actions” section) or relocations, the first hearing at Court can be one of the most important in the case, especially if an immediate change is being requested. Seasoned legal advice and representation from the start of the case can set a case on the right path—the path to success/victory.
Paternity cases are necessary when unmarried parents wish to establish the paternity (i.e., the legal identity of the biological father) of their child. These cases are sometimes also referred to as parentage cases. It’s necessary to establish paternity before a parent has legally enforceable rights to visitation or child support.
The Uniform Parentage Act identifies the ways that paternity may be established. For example, a man is presumed the father of a child who was born within 300 days of the man’s divorce from the mother. For a full list of these presumptions, see RCW 26.26.116. Such a presumption can be overcome, but only with convincing evidence, such as a DNA test, presented at the earliest opportunity. Failure to challenge the presumption of paternity within the child’s first few years of life can render the presumption non-rebuttable.
When no presumption applies, a man is not deemed the legal parent of a child absent proof. Again, this proof often comes in the form of a DNA test. Upon proper request, a Court must order an alleged father to submit to DNA testing unless that alleged father successful proves he did not engage in sexual intercourse with the mother.
Legal paternity can also arise under the following conditions:
Either parent can initiate a paternity case. If a mother and child are receiving state benefits, then the State of Washington can commence a paternity case. Once paternity has been established, the Court will sign an order establishing paternity. In the process, it can change the child’s birth certificate to reflect both biological parents, and provide for child support and a residential schedule if that is pursued by one or both parents.
Contact Berner Law Group, PLLC to speak with a custody lawyer/attorney in Snohomish County today! We’re conveniently located directly across the street from the Snohomish County Superior Court in downtown Everett.