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Meet Amanda J. Cook, Family Law Attorney

The lawyers at the Law Office of Amanda J. Cook PLLC can help you understand your rights to child custody and visitation when you and your spouse are seeking separation or divorce. Whether you are a mother or father, we believe that all fit and loving parents have the right to custody or visitation with their child, and want to assist you in understanding the laws and how to navigate the legal process. 

We Provide Solutions-Driven Representation to Parents in Custody and Visitation Cases

At the Law Office of Amanda J. Cook PLLC, our Gig Harbor child custody and visitation attorney is an experienced, compassionate, and solutions-focused advocate for parents. We are a full-service firm that is devoted exclusively to family law. If you have any questions about child custody issues or child visitation, our legal team is here to help. Contact us at our Gig Harbor office to set up your fully confidential consultation with a Washington family law attorney.

Understanding Child Custody in Washington: Parenting Plan Cases

In Washington State, the terms “child custody” and “child visitation” are technically not used in official family law proceedings. While you will still frequently hear these terms used informally, the state uses concepts like “decision-making authority” and “residential time.” A key thing to know about custody and visitation cases in Gig Harbor is that Washington courts use parenting plans. A parenting plan is a framework that helps to define each parent’s rights, responsibilities, and role in a child’s life. Indeed, a parenting plan typically outlines the specific details of how parents will share responsibilities and make decisions affecting their child’s welfare, including living arrangements, education, health care, and religious upbringing.

Note: Washington strongly favors some form of joint custody (shared custody). While it is possible that a parent in Gig Harbor could be awarded sole legal custody of a child, state law holds that it is inherently in the best interests of the child to have a positive, ongoing relationship with both of his or her parents.

Washington is the Best Interests of the Child State

How are child custody disputes resolved in Washington? Our state uses the best interests of the child standard. Under RCW 26.09.002, courts strive to determine a parenting plan that “best maintains a child’s emotional growth, health and stability, and physical care.” A wide range of different factors can be considered when determining what is in a child’s best interests, including:

  • The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent;
  • Each parent’s past performance of parenting functions and current parenting ability;
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a stable home environment;
  • The emotional needs and developmental level of the child;
  • The child’s relationship with siblings and other important adults;
  • The wishes of a child—old enough and mature enough to give input;
  • Any history of misconduct by a parent (abuse, addiction, neglect, etc); and
  • Any other factor that the court deems to be relevant.

Our Firm Puts an Emphasis on Collaborative Solutions in Custody/Visitation Cases

In Washington, parents are encouraged to work collaboratively to find a parenting plan that is effective for their specific situation. At the Law Office of Amanda J. Cook PLLC, we know that parents want low-conflict solutions in custody and visitation cases. With extensive experience in family mediation, our Gig Harbor child custody lawyer puts a strong emphasis on helping our clients work towards collaborative parenting plans that are truly best for their families. At the same time, we are already ready to take whatever legal action is needed to protect your parental rights. While amicable solutions are desirable, our firm knows that some parents are dealing with more challenging situations.

Five Tips for Negotiating a Parent Plan 

Are you negotiating a parenting plan in Gig Harbor or elsewhere in Pierce County? It is always best to take a proactive approach. Here are four tips that you can use to work towards a parenting plan that effectively addresses child custody and child visitation: 

  1. Prioritize your child’s needs and well-being and ensure the plan reflects their best interests.
  2. Try to keep an open and respectful line of communication with the other parent.
  3. Consult with an experienced family law attorney as earlier in the process as possible. 
  4. Put a focus on the logistics of daily life to create a practical, sustainable plan.
  5. Document any agreement clearly and thoroughly to prevent misunderstandings. 

What to Know About the Process for Child Custody Modifications in Washington

Until a child becomes an adult, custody and visitation is an ongoing process. A custody arrangement that worked very well when it was first put in place several years ago may no longer be the right solution for you and your family. In Washington State, there is a process in place for the modification of child custody and/or child visitation. Modification cases generally fit into two broad categories: 

  • Both Parents Want Modification: If both parents in Gig Harbor agree that a modification of child custody or child visitation is necessary and they agree on terms of the change, then the process is relatively straightforward. Courts in Washington give parents considerable discretion to reach their own agreement regarding a modification of custody.  
  • One Parent Seeking Modification: If one parent wants a change, modification can be more complicated. To request a modification, that parent must prove a significant and material change in circumstances since the last order. In other words, the parent who wants a modification must prove that something has changed in a way that was not anticipated and that the change warrants an adjustment to custody and/or visitation. Some examples include new jobs, financial issues, relocations, health problems, and shifting child needs. 

Ideally, parents will be able to work out an agreement regarding a modification that suits everyone. However, if a court does need to step in to resolve the matter, then the best interests of the child standard still apply. A parent seeking a modification must be prepared to prove that their proposed change is best for the child’s health, safety, and overall welfare. 

Child Custody and Visitation in Washington: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Mediation a Good Option for Child Disputes?

Yes. In fact, mediation is often a highly effective option for resolving child disputes in Washington. It provides a non-adversarial process that allows parents to work towards a custody or visitation agreement collaboratively, outside of a potentially contentious courtroom setting. If you are considering mediation, our Gig Harbor custody and visitation attorney can help. 

Can Grandparents Get Visitation Rights in Washington?

Yes. While a child’s legal parents have far stronger rights, grandparents do have the right to petition a court for guaranteed visitation in Washington State. In doing so, a grandparent must prove that granting such rights are in the best interests of the child. Among other things, it requires demonstrating that a significant relationship exists between the child and the grandparent. To be clear, these rights are not automatic—far from it. These are complicated cases. A grandparent must be ready to show that denying visitation would negatively impact the child’s well-being. 

Will Supervised Visitation Ever Be Required in Washington State?

Yes. When deemed necessary to protect the health, safety, and overall best interests of a child, a parent in Washington can be restricted to supervised visitation. This can be due to a variety of reasons, including past abusive behavior, substance abuse, or reintroduction after a long absence. Supervised visitation aims to support the parent-child relationship while ensuring the child’s safety and comfort during visits. Restricts could be removed gradually over time. 

What Happens if a Parent Violates a Custody/Visitation Order?

It depends on the nature, severity, and consistency of violations. Minor violations of a time-sharing schedule—such as being a few minutes late to drop off a child after being stuck in traffic—are generally not a legal matter at all. However, major violations should be addressed. If the issue cannot be handled between the parents, a motion can be filed with the court to enforce the order. In some cases, custody or visitation terms may be changed to ensure accountability. If you have questions about custody/visitation violations, a Gig Harbor family lawyer can help.

Why Rely On Gig Harbor Custody and Visitation Lawyer Amanda J. Cook

Whether you are going through a divorce, separation, or a reorganization of your family, navigating a child/visitation case is never easy. It is normal to have a lot of questions about your rights and your parenting plan options. Our founder and principal attorney Amanda J. Cook is a passionate, proactive representative for clients. A native of Puget Sound, she is the pro tem (temporary) family court commissioner for Pierce County Superior Court and she handles even the most complex custody cases. Our Gig Harbor family law lawyer has extensive experience and is prepared to:

  • Hear your story and answer questions about your case;
  • Help understand all of your available options for custody and visitation;
  • Gather and organize all of the documents, records, and evidence to support your case;
  • Represent your negotiation of a parenting plan with your former spouse/partner; and
  • Take whatever legal steps are needed to protect your parental rights and your kids.

Contact Our Gig Harbor Child Custody and Visitation Attorney Today

At the Law Office of Amanda J. Cook PLLC, our Washington child custody and visitation lawyer is a skilled and experienced advocate for parents. Have questions about custody? We are here as a resource. Contact us today for a completely confidential, no-obligation consultation. With an office in Gig Harbor, we handle child custody and visitation cases in Pierce County and across the region.

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Each and every client and their case matter to us.

…Divorce and child custody issues are stressful enough to continually go through ,but Amanda always knew how to ease some of that stress. There’s no better feeling than having the utmost confidence in your attorney. Amanda was always there whenever we had questions or needed clarification. She’s hands down one of the best around!

Steve & Marissa

Amanda went above and beyond to help us in every way when it came to our custody issues. She was there for us every step of the way. Her knowledge and expertise helped us at every turn. She is a wonderful person and even better lawyer to have on your side. Thank you ever so much Amanda for your time and effort.