We are often asked what the chances are of the father getting primary custody in Washington. Even though the laws are neutral on face, you can see from a recent report by research group that the results favor women.
In the 2010 report, there are some interesting findings about parenting plans. First, in general, children are more likely to be in a custody arrangement in which they spend more time with their mothers than their fathers, but about 18% of all the cases are a 50/50 split.
The Washington State Court also asks about risk factors such as domestic violence, child abuse, and chemical dependence and examines how these factors affect residential time.
Overall, about 88% of the families have none of these risk factors. (That’s interesting by itself!)
About 4% of the mothers and 10% of the fathers are identified as having a risk factor. As would be expected, as the number of risk factors increase, the parent without the risks is more likely to have full custody. When a mother has 3+ risk factors 65% of the fathers are likely to have full custody and when fathers have high risk factors (3+), about 75% of the mothers have full custody. In general, fathers were more likely to lose residential time with their children due to risk factors than mothers.
So how were these parenting arrangements decided? Almost 9 out of 10 cases (88%) were decided by the parents themselves. Only 2% were decided by the courts through a trial and another 10% were decided by default. In those cases, decided by the parents themselves, 22% of the parents chose equal time. In the contested and default cases, only 5% of the cases resulted in equal time for both parents.
While it is in many cases an uphill battle to get primary custody as a father, there are actions you can take to improve you chances. If your spouse has any of the risk factors, or if you can show that you have had a primary or more equal roll in raising the children, you have a stronger argument.