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Child Custody & Child Support

Vancouver Child Custody Lawyers

In Washington, “custody” arrangements for children are set forth in a formal “Parenting Plan.” A Parenting Plan sets forth the residential schedule, decision-making authority and other provisions governing children.

Coming up with a Parenting Plan which serves the best interests of the child can be one of the more challenging aspects of a divorce, legal separation, parentage, or child custody action. Both parents may claim they want what is best for the children, but their views on the matter are often divergent from one another or are more focused on their own self-interests as opposed to the “best interests” of the child.
In the absence of an agreement between the parents, courts in Washington are given the responsibility of coming up with a Parenting Plan that serves the best interests of the child. RCW 26.09.187 requires a Court to consider:


  • The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent.
  • The agreements of the parties provided they were entered into knowingly and voluntarily.
  • Each parent’s past and potential for future performance of parenting functions, including whether a parent has taken greater responsibility for performing parenting functions relating to the daily needs of the child.
  • The emotional needs and developmental level of the child.
  • The child’s relationship with siblings and with other significant adults, as well as the child’s involvement with his or her physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities.
  • The wishes of the parents and the wishes of a child who is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to his or her residential schedule.
  • Each parent’s employment schedule.
The standards will vary depending of the precise nature of the legal proceeding so it is vital that you work with experienced legal counsel. The Chris R. Sundstrom Law Firm has over 25 years of experience in child custody litigation. We know the law, and we know how to navigate the process to serve the best interests of the child(ren).

At Chris R. Sundstrom Law Firm, PLLC, we understand the law surrounding child custody litigation and parenting plans. We take the time to fully understand your goals with regard to your children. In some cases, a parent’s goals are not possible under the law. If your goals are unattainable, I will let you know upfront and explain your legal options.

It is important for divorcing couples to reach an agreement about a parenting plan on their own whenever possible. Experience tells us that negotiated parenting plans are desirable as both parents have had the opportunity to contribute to the plan such that the plan adequately encompasses their needs and their compromises.

The alternative?

If parents cannot negotiate a parenting plan between themselves, the Court will make a determination on it own. The result is a parenting plan which often does not work well because the Judge is not intimately familiar with the circumstances of each party or of the children.

A final parenting plan is binding and cannot be changed without a court-approved modification, which can be difficult to secure. The standards for a modification can be found at RCW 26.09.260 and any modification to a parenting plan is subject to a presumption in favor of continuing the custodial continuity under the existing parenting plan.

The Chris R. Sundstrom Law Firm is skilled at helping clients reach agreements on even the most strongly contested parenting plans and, if unsuccessful, we are experienced in getting the best results possible for our clients in the courtroom.

Vancouver Child Support Lawyers

Over 25 years of experience.

Divorce is often a stressful and messy affair. There’s financial and property considerations, which are emotionally draining issues to solve, and for many spouses, there are special considerations to make for their children. When it comes to your kids, you want to know you’re doing what’s best for them. During a divorce, legal separation, parentage, or child custody matter it is in the best interest of the child that both parents support their child financially. This support obligation continues until they are emancipated or no longer dependent upon the parents.

No child should have their opportunities limited or taken away from them because of their parents’ relationship. To ensure kids can emerge from divorce as unscathed as possible, courts will usually order one parent to pay child support.

Child support is a series of court-ordered payments, normally paid by the non-residential parent to ensure the child shares in a comparable standard of living similar to tone they experienced when both parents were together. In some cases, child support may be ordered in shared parenting schedules as well. Other family law matters, such as relocation, or a major modification of the parenting plan may also address child support.

How is child support calculated in Washington?

Washington uses a particular set of guidelines (commonly referred to as child support economic table) to calculate the correct amount of support a parent may be required to pay for their support of a child. Whether you are seeking to establish child support for the first time in conjunction with a divorce, legal separation, parentage, or child custody proceeding or looking to modify an existing support order, these support guidelines calculate the child support obligation using each parent’s monthly net income.

Once child support has been calculated, a court may then consider other “equitable” factors (e.g., overnight residential credit, other children in need of support, expense sharing, etc.) which may affect the final transfer payment from one parent to the other. However, these considerations are discretionary, rather than mandatory. The Chris R. Sundstrom Law Firm has the experience to address these equitable factors and we are happy to explain this in more detail.

Above and beyond the mere calculation of support there are many other considerations that must be addressed such as: method and timing of payment, enforcement, possible “post-secondary education” expenses, uninsured medical expenses, income tax exemptions, etc. When asked, our clients will often remark that the most surprising element of a child support order is that costs for day care, education, and often clubs, sports and extracurricular expenses are not included in the basic child support payment!

Why do you need a child support attorney?

The child support calculation process can be very complicated as it is at all times subject to the broad discretion of the court. Results can vary a great deal from one case to the next. Therefore, it is vital that you seek the advice of a Washington family law lawyer experienced in the jurisdiction in which your child support matter is to be heard. The Chris R. Sundstrom Law firm has this experience.

Unfortunately, sometimes one parent will refuse to comply with child support order to include payments. If you find yourself dealing with an uncooperative former spouse, your best option is hiring a lawyer to address enforcement actions. Enforcing child support orders can be incredibly difficult to manage alone without the expertise of a child support lawyer looking out for you and your child’s best interests.

A competent family law lawyer, experienced in child support issues will ensure that every relevant detail has been considered in an effort to secure an accurate child support order, including income verification and any applicable allowances that could impact the amount of the order. Which parent is paying for the children’s health insurance, day care, education and other considerations could also significantly change the final amount ordered.

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