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Are Mothers Given Preference in Custody Disputes?

Updated: May 12, 2022

Debunking the Myth of “Perceived Preference” toward Mothers in Custody Disputes.

As Mother’s Day nears, we thought it time to correct a long-standing misunderstanding we often hear. The one that many clients mistakenly hold regarding child custody. These clients, mothers and fathers alike, have made the assumption that preferential treatment is always given to the mother in child custody cases. This may have been true years ago, when the ‘tender years’ doctrine dictated that children stay with mothers to ensure the development years were secure. However, courts in Washington State have long abandoned this doctrine. Should your case ever go before a family law judge, take comfort in knowing that the presiding judge is bound by the law. And the law in Washington State is that custody is determined “ accordance with the best interests of the child.”

Because the child's best interests are the priority, the judge may conclude that both parents should be in their life equally. The decision is not simply based on the gender of either parent. The court looks closely at the relationship between the child and each parent. A judge will not want to terminate or alter an established bond established between child and parent. Maintaining the status quo for the child will also play a significant role in the court’s decision.

The Status Quo

The court will look at how the child has been living, who has been their primary caretaker, and the types of relationships that the child may have formed. They will not want to drastically change the child’s situation if they can avoid it. For example, which parent was the primary caretaker for the child prior to divorce? Did one parent stay home and raise the child while the other worked to support the family financially?

Additionally, the court will look at where the child has been going to school, the sports and extracurricular activities they are involved in, and the relationships they have with their friends and family. If awarding primary custody to one parent over is disruptive to these things, the court may consider a scenario whereby shared physical custody is the best means of maintaining the status quo for the child.

View Ridge Family Law & Estate Planning

At View Ridge Family Law & Estate Planning, we understand the significance child custody has on parents. Our role is to support and advise you during this difficult time in your life. We are committed to ensuring that you are set up for long-term success. Developing a parenting plan provides the groundwork, and it will be a very important first step in your journey.

If you are someone who decided to step back from your career to raise your children, we can also advise you on how to become financially independent again. In addition to your case, we can sit down and arrive at an appropriate budget so that you and your child can have the best chances for success post-divorce. For more information about how we can assist you with your family law case, contact us to set up a consultation. Call 206-336-9195 ext. 0.

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