What is a parenting plan? A parenting plan in Washington determines which parent the children will reside with every day of the year. This includes a preschool schedule, school schedule, holidays, school breaks, vacations, special occasions, and vacations.
The parenting plan also addresses decision making, parental deficiencies or limitations, dispute resolution, transportation arrangements to exchange the child between parents, notice requirements if a parent relocates, and other provisions as needed.
Do I need a parenting plan? A parenting plan is important, because it tells you and the other parent who your children are scheduled to live with. This is important, because if there is a disagreement, you will know which parent the children are supposed to be with. This is also critical for when the other parent threatens to withhold your child from you. If you have a court ordered parenting plan, you can file a contempt action to enforce your custody/residential rights. If you are caught without out a parenting plan when this happens, you will likely need to establish a parenting plan prior to enforcement. Each situation is different, so it is important to consult with an experienced attorney to review your case.
Which parent will get custody of the children? In Washington state, the superior court does not use the term custody as it relates to both parents. Custody does apply in situation where a child resides with a non-parent under a court order. Both parents have custody, the court or the parties by agreement, determine the parenting time each parent will have with the children. This can range between a 50/50 parenting plan for each parent to one parent receiving most of the parenting time or one parent having their time completely restricted.
How does the court determine the residential provision of the parenting plan? The factors the court considers are contained in RCW 26.09.187. The court makes residential provisions for each child which encourage each parent to maintain a loving, stable, and nurturing relationship with the child, consistent with the child’s developmental level and the family’s social and economic circumstances. The child’s residential schedule shall be consistent with RCW 26.09.191. Where the limitations of RCW 26.09.191 are not dispositive of the child’s residential schedule, the court shall consider the following factors which are contained in RCW 26.09.187(3)(a):
(i) The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent;
(ii) The agreements of the parties, provided they were entered into knowingly and voluntarily;
(iii) Each parent’s past and potential for future performance of parenting functions as defined in *RCW 26.09.004(3), including whether a parent has taken greater responsibility for performing parenting functions relating to the daily needs of the child;
(iv) The emotional needs and developmental level of the child;
(v) 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;
(vi) 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; and
(vii) Each parent’s employment schedule and shall make accommodations consistent with those schedules. Factor (i) shall be given the greatest weight.
(b) Where the limitations of RCW 26.09.191 are not dispositive, the court may order that a child frequently alternate his or her residence between the households of the parents for brief and substantially equal intervals of time if such provision is in the best interests of the child. In determining whether such an arrangement is in the best interests of the child, the court may consider the parties geographic proximity to the extent necessary to ensure the ability to share performance of the parenting functions.
(c) For any child, residential provisions may contain any reasonable terms or conditions that facilitate the orderly and meaningful exercise of residential time by a parent, including but not limited to requirements of reasonable notice when residential time will not occur.