From a Child Custody Attorney: How Parent Location Can Affect a Child Custody Decision

In Washington State child custody cases, the court’s main goal is to place the child in the home with the most stable, nurturing environment and one that is in their best interests. Parents often work with child custody attorneys in a divorce to create a parenting plan that outlines a custody arrangement that benefits their child(ren) the most.

Washington State offers parents the opportunity to apply for sole custody or joint custody. However, a lot of factors can affect a child custody decision, especially if the parents can’t agree on a parenting plan. Let’s discuss a little about how the parent’s location factors into child custody.

From a Child Custody Attorney: How Parent Location Can Affect a Child Custody Decision

Divorced parents with children have a hard job: agreeing on a parenting plan. Fortunately, working with a reputable child custody attorney can help clear up the process and provide the necessary legal guidance.

While many factors influence child custody in Washington State, one factor that people do not usually think about is the parent’s location. Below are a few ways how distance can affect the final parenting plan.

How Distance From a Child Can Affect a Child Custody Decision

Let’s say you and your ex-spouse live states away from each other. You had to move for work, and you are more than a quick drive from your child. If so, you can work with the court to create a long-distance parenting plan (as long as you meet the other requirements).

This comes in handy when one parent cannot see the child on a weekly basis due to the proximity. Typically, the non-custodial parent who lives far away can request to have the child on long breaks, such as during the summertime or two-week winter break.

However, you will be less likely to see your child when school is in session unless you come for a visit and work it out with your former partner.

How Distance From a Child’s School Can Affect a Child Custody Decision

Judges like to make sure a child has a safe place to call home. That could mean two houses in some cases, such as with joint custody. However, you most likely will not be granted 50/50 custody if you do not live close enough to your child’s school or if you are in the middle of a messy child custody battle.

To get the same amount of time with your child, it is helpful to be on the same page with the other parent and to live in close proximity. If you are concerned that you will not receive the 50/50 custody, but you both offer a safe, healthy environment for your child, you can talk to your child custody attorney about a Guardian ad Litem (GAL).

Many GALs opt for joint custody, and it is commonplace for judges to go with their suggested parenting plan. Talk to your lawyer to see which GALs in your area are on the same page about 50/50 custody if this option is needed to improve the chance of the parenting plan going the way you want.

How a Parent’s Neighborhood Can Affect a Child Custody Decision

There are many considerations of moving to a new neighborhood. For instance, the first thing the judge will look at is safety. They may assess whether there are any registered sex offenders in the area or if the neighborhood is known for crime.

Maintaining a safe home environment for your child is crucial to helping them grow to become the best versions of themselves and helping them transition easily from living with two parents in the same home to one parent or a single parent at a time.

Moving can be a lot for a child to take in–even more so if their parents are mid-divorce, and emotions are already high. Living in a good neighborhood can help with your chances of getting custody, so be sure to check out the area fully before signing a lease at your new place.

How a Parent’s Proximity to Potentially Dangerous Locations Can Affect a Child Custody Decision

One of the requirements to obtain child custody is that you must have the means to provide for your child’s basic needs in life. This includes food, clean water, and a safe place to live.

If your home is near a prison, halfway house, or other dangerous location, it may not be considered a safe environment for a child. This can cause the judge to deny you custody, and you may have to move to get your child overnight again.

When you are looking around for a new place to live, ask yourself:

  • Is my child safe playing outside?
  • What is the risk of living here?
  • Is my child in danger?

How Distance From a Child’s Grandparents Can Affect a Child Custody Decision

If a child’s parent is deemed unfit, grandparents can file for non-parental custody to take in the child. However, if a parent simply moves far away from the grandparents, there could still be a custody battle at play.

It is less likely with grandparent visitation if the parent proves to be fit and provides safe living conditions for the child. The court can order visitation for a grandparent in Washington State under one condition, even if the fit parent disagrees. That is “that the child would likely suffer harm or the substantial risk of harm if visitation between the petitioner and the child is not granted.”

The court will take into consideration the grandparent’s relationship with the child as well as how visitation will help the child. It can be challenging to meet all the criteria for getting visitation as a grandparent in Washington State, but it is not impossible as long as you work with a qualified child custody lawyer. 


Finalizing a parenting plan can be easier said than done if the parents do not agree with one another. However, if you do wish to be granted sole or joint custody, location plays an important role in the judge’s final decision.

Staying nearby your child’s other parent and close to your child’s school can work in your favor. On the other hand, being in close proximity to a dangerous environment can have the opposite effect on the child custody case.

When in doubt, contact a child custody attorney. We are here to help.

Need the best child custody lawyer to help with your case? Clearwater Law Group’s experienced team is based out of the Tri-Cities and ready to help you win custody. Schedule a free one-on-one consultation now.