Visitation Rights in Washington

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After a couple separates, they must also resolve custody issues if children are involved. Visitation issues are normally part of any custody agreement, which is also referred to as a "parenting plan" in Washington state. This plan includes the residential schedule that details where the child resides every day of the year.

The residential schedule is based on the type of custody arrangement. If the parenting plan reflects an arrangement equivalent to shared physical custody, it gives both parents significant time spent with the child, but a sole physical custody arrangement involves the child living primarily with one parent and visiting the other.

If the parents can't agree to visitation terms, then the court steps in to make the arrangements. For instance, the court will order supervised visitation (limited to visits supervised by a designated adult) when it's necessary to protect the child. The legal standard used to make these decisions is the "best interests of the child" test.

Visitation Rights in Washington at a Glance

Reading and understanding statutes can be a daunting task. The best way to get help is by consulting with an attorney. However, you can get started by reading a plain English version of the content. Read on for a condensed guide to visitation rights in Washington.

Statutes

Washington Revised Code:

  • Section 26.10.160 (visitation rights--limitations)
  • Section 26.09.240 (grandparents' visitation rights)
  • Section 26.09.260 (modification of a parenting plan or custody decree)

 

Visitation Rights: Limitations

 

A parent who isn't granted custody of the child is typically entitled to reasonable visitation rights. These rights are limited if the parent engages in any of the following conduct:

  • Willful abandonment that continues for an extended time or substantial refusal to perform parental functions;
  • Physical, sexual, or a pattern of emotional abuse of a child;
  • A history of acts of domestic violence; or
  • An assault or sexual assault which causes grievous bodily harm or fear of such; or
  • The parent has been convicted as an adult of certain sex offenses named in the statute.

The parent's visitation rights are limited if they reside with a person who has engaged in the following conduct:

  • Physical, sexual, or a pattern of emotional abuse of a child;
  • A history of acts of domestic violence; or
  • An assault or sexual assault that causes grievous bodily harm or fear of such; or
  • The person has been convicted as an adult of certain sex offenses named in the statute.

Non-Parent Rights

Certain relatives (including grandparents) may petition for visitation rights in the county where the child lives.

Factors used to determine if visitation is in the child's best interests:

  • The strength of the relationship between the child and person seeking visitation;
  • The relationship between the parents and the person seeking visitation;
  • The nature and reason for either parent's objection;
  • The effect that granting visitation will have on the relationship between the child and the child's parents;
  • The residential time-sharing arrangements between the parents;
  • The good faith of the person seeking visitation;
  • Any criminal history or history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect by the petitioner; and
  • Any other factor relevant to the child's best interest.

Modification of Parenting Plan or Custody Decree

Generally, Washington doesn't want to modify parenting plans to decrease visitation. However, a court may modify a prior parenting plan or custody decree if there's substantial change in circumstances after the plan or decree was in place or information surfaces that was unknown at the time of the original plan or decree.

Even if a court places restriction on visitation, it will likely allow the parent to work toward gaining regular visitation back. This may include working with a counselor or therapist.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Visitation Rights in Washington: Related Resources

Confused about Visitation Rights in Washington? See an Attorney

Understanding your visitation rights in Washington can be difficult, but it's important to know where you stand. You should consider reaching out to an experienced Washington attorney for assistance with asserting your rights or modifying your parenting plan or custody decree.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.