I'm not sure what kind of intentions my ex has concerning my daughter, but knowing him I could see him seeking some sort of custody, not just visitation, through the courts out of spite for me. He initially, after 2 and a half years of not being involved, was going to leave us alone if I terminated the support order that was put in place just before his 9 month deployment (he got back a month ago). After taking an attorney's advice, I told him that the order could not be terminated. In any case, I feel for the safety of my daughter, supervised visitation is a must if he seeks visitation at all. My concern is that I don't have all the evidence to prove that he is not fit to be left alone with a small child. Would a court give a toddler to someone the toddler has had no relationship with?
Family Law Attorney
There is a lot of information you left out of your question that is necessary in order to provide a meaningful answer. Do you have a parenting plan on file with the court? Has the child ever had a relationship with the father?
The fact is, as the father has an obligation to support the child and he has all the parental rights to spend time with the child and to be involved in life decisions for the child. This obviously is modified if it can be shown that the child is in danger of abuse or neglect.
You made no specific allegations as to why you believe your child would be in danger if left alone with his/her father. That is really information you would discuss with a Family law attorney anyway.
Here is the statute used as written for a how visitation works for a temporary parenting plan.
RCW 26.09.197 - After considering the affidavit required by RCW 26.09.194(1) and other relevant evidence presented, the court shall make a temporary parenting plan that is in the best interest of the child. In making this determination, the court shall give particular consideration to:
(1) The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child's relationship with each parent; and
(2) Which parenting arrangements will cause the least disruption to the child's emotional stability while the action is pending.
The court shall also consider the factors used to determine residential provisions in the permanent parenting plan.
If you don't have a parenting plan you need to get one. With a parenting plan all terms and conditions of visitation are spelled out and approved by the court. As your child has had a limited if non-existent relationship with his/her father the court will take that into consideration as to how visitation will occur. They will want to cause as least disruption in the child life as possible. Everything is done with the "Best Interest of the Child(ren)" in mind.
Speak to a Family Law Attorney. Many will work with you as to fees and you can also seek legal advice from NW Justice Project, They provide limited legal assistance for low income individuals. Contact them to see if you qualify. http://nwjustice.org/ Additionally, Washington Law Help http://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/issues/family-law is a great source of legal information for Washignton State.
Divorce / Separation Lawyer
I agree with Douglas. There is not a lot of information here. That being the case, and assuming that you cannot prove that Dad has some sort of problem or issue that could be a danger to the child, the court is likely to give him some sort of visitation. Because the child is young, and because he has been out of the child's life, I would not be surprised to see the court ordering a program of reintroduction. It would have several weeks of frequent, short visitations building up to full overnights. If you ask, the court also might order some sort of parenting classes. I would, however, suggest you meet with an attorney to go over your case in much greater detail.
If you have a parenting plan already, you may need to file a petition to modify it. Otherwise you should file a petition to establish a parenting plan or residential schedule. It is unlikely that the court would grant custody to the dad since you have always been the primary caretaker. Supervised visits may be appropriate depending on the detailed facts. It’s always best to consult with a good family law attorney to discuss the details before you act. See my AVVO Legal Guides on child custody, parenting plans, and parentage cases for more information about the legal issues raised by your inquiry. Please keep in mind that although these Legal Guides are often informative, they are no substitute for legal advice from an attorney you have retained for consultation or representation. There are always exceptions to the general rules. Click on my photo. On my AVVO home page click on "Contributor Level - View Contributions" or scroll down further and click on "Contribution - Legal Guides." Scroll down the list of my 31 Legal Guides and select the topics relevant to your question. If you like my answer and Legal Guides, please make sure you mark them as “helpful” or “best answer”. © Bruce Clement
©Bruce Clement. This AVVO Answer is provided for general educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you agree and understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the attorney responding, and no attorney-client confidentiality. The law changes frequently, and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information provided in this Answer is general in nature and may not apply to the factual circumstances described in your question. The applicable law and the appropriate answer may be different in the State or States where the relevant facts occurred. For a definitive answer you should seek legal advice from an attorney who (1) is licensed to practice in the state which has jurisdiction; (2) has experience in the area of law you are asking about, and (3) has been retained as your attorney for representation or consultation. Your question and the attorney’s answer may be used for promotional or educational purposes.