Legal Voice is pleased by the Washington Supreme Court’s recent decision in the case of In re Marriage of Chandola. Legal Voice and several of our allies submitted an amicus brief in the case, which concerned the ability of courts to restrict a parent’s residential time with a child.
The case involved a parenting plan for the child of a different-sex couple, both of Indian descent. The mother was the family’s primary income-earner, and cared for her daughter after coming home at night. While the mother was at work, the child’s grandparents provided much of her care.
After the couple separated, the trial court held that the child should live most of the time with the mother. The court restricted the father’s residential time due to multiple parenting deficits that adversely affected the child. The father appealed, suggesting that the ruling impacted his constitutional rights as a parent and that the court was culturally insensitive.
The Supreme Court largely rejected the father’s arguments. The Court held that the restrictions on the father’s residential time were well-supported by the evidence, and flatly rejected arguments his constitutional rights were impacted. The Court also dismissed the notion that the parenting plan’s restrictions reflected cultural insensitivity. By a narrow 5-4 margin, the Court reversed only one restriction that the trial court had imposed—a restriction which the mother had not even requested.
Legal Voice has long worked to make sure the family law system treats both women and men fairly. In cases involving children, we believe the focus must be on developing individualized parenting plans that protect the best interests of the child—while recognizing the reality that women continue to provide the majority of care to children in many families. We are pleased that the Court’s ruling upholds those principles, and we applaud the mother for her courage in pursuing justice for herself and her daughter.