Child Custody Orders in Washington

A court can issue several types of orders that mandate how a child should be cared for, including temporary orders, emergency orders and permanent orders (also called permanent parenting plans).

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Temporary orders

Temporary orders provide short-term solutions to disputes that can't wait until the end of legal proceedings to be resolved.

They generally assign decision-making authority to one or both parents and set a residential schedule for the duration of the litigation process or settlement process. They can also address issues specific to a case.

Parents can agree on a temporary order or request a decision from the court. If a parent disagrees with the court's decision, he or she can request a new temporary order.

If your temporary order works well, the judge may be inclined to issue a similar permanent order, though temporary orders are not meant to influence permanent ones.

Emergency orders

An emergency order is a type of temporary order. To get one, you must provide evidence that your child faces immediate danger or risk of abduction.

Within hours or days of submitting a well-founded request for an emergency order, you'll have a hearing without the other parent (called an ex parte hearing).

If the judge grants you emergency custody at the ex parte hearing, you'll attend a second hearing within 14 days, where the other parent can present evidence to counter your claims. The emergency order remains in place until the hearing, even if delays occur.

At the second hearing, the judge can terminate the emergency order or convert it into a regular temporary order, which may or may not have the same stipulations.

Permanent orders (permanent parenting plans)

A permanent order takes the place of any temporary orders in a case.

In custody cases, a permanent order comes in the form of a parenting plan. The plan lasts until one of the following occurs:

  • The child involved turns 18.
  • The child is emancipated.
  • The parents reach an alternate agreement.
  • A parent proves a new order is necessary.

Permanent orders can be developed in two ways.

Preferably, the parties draw up the terms together, and a judge signs off, as long as it's in the child's best interests. Known as settling, this is considered the gold standard, as it keeps families in charge of their own lives.

Alternatively, a judge will decide the terms based on the evidence from a trial.

If a parent has a valid reason to challenge a judge's decision, they can go to the Court of Appeals and begin the legal process again.

Modifying a permanent order

To modify a permanent order, you must prove that a substantial change in circumstances — such as a move or a new work schedule — has impacted the child's best interests. A judge will not alter the order if the current arrangement suits the child best.

If parents agree on a modification, they present it to the judge for approval.

If parents disagree, one can file a Petition to Change a Parenting Plan to ask the court to make a decision for them.

Enforcing a permanent order

If the other parent doesn't follow a court order, you should keep detailed records of the violations. You can use your Custody X Change journal or actual residential time tracker.

For serious or repeat violations, you can file for contempt with the court. If you think your situation calls for a contempt of court case, speak to an attorney; these are typically criminal proceedings.

Following court orders correctly

When a court issues orders, you must follow them. If you don't, you can be brought back to court, fined and more.

But orders are complicated, especially for residential schedules. When exactly does "Week 2" begin this month? Which day marks the middle of summer break?

Use Custody X Change to plug your order into a calendar you can edit, share and print so you'll never have to wonder whether you're following the order correctly.

With the Custody X Change online app, you can combine schedules for the school year, summer break and holidays into one calendar.

You can even track how well court orders are being followed with our parenting time tracker and parenting journal.

Custody X Change has all the tools you need to set your new parenting arrangement up for success.

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