What is a Parenting Plan?
Even though the divorce process is almost always unpleasant for soon-to-be-ex-spouses, most parents realize that they need to put aside their own feelings of sadness, anger, bitterness, etc. and try to work together to do what is best for the children. This often culminates in a workable parenting plan that addresses the day-to-day relationship between the children and each parent.
But, of course, this is not always the case.
As with most states, Washington law requires that parents establish their respective custody and visitation rights in a legally-binding parenting plan with the number one priority of serving the best interests of the children.
Washington’s courts always encourage parents to be flexible in their parenting arrangements and to use the official parenting plan as the governing document and schedule should disputes arise.
In addition to the general parenting schedule, Washington law provides that parenting plans must also establish directives regarding holidays, school districts, transportation (drop-off, pick-up, etc.), and more.
Five Parenting Plans Most Commonly Followed in the State of Washington
The “Typical” Parenting Plan
Although it is not so typical any more, the “typical” parenting plan in Washington essentially consists of an “every-other-weekend” schedule. In this type of arrangement, the non-primary (i.e., non-custodial) parent has overnight parenting time with the child(ren) every other weekend in addition to a scheduled, weekly visit. When both parents are highly involved with the children, this type of schedule is rarely adopted by the court unless specific circumstances warrant it (such as geographic limitations).
Joint Custody or 50/50 Parenting Plan
Unlike in some other states, joint custody is becoming more common. In joint custody arrangements, the child(ren) reside with each parent about 50% of the time. The logistics often include a “week-on, week-off” schedule. In some cases, parents choose to implement a “2-2-3” schedule (2 days with Parent A, 2 days with Parent B, 3 days with Parent A, etc.).
Courts do not like to sign off on joint-custody parenting plans in situations where the parents are combative towards each other and/or when a tough custody dispute is ongoing. The prevailing theory is that a “home base” is often in the best interests of children.
Moreover, when parents live a distance from each other and/or the children’s schools, courts do not favor joint-custody arrangements.
Infant Parenting Plan
The general consensus among those knowledgeable in the subject recommend in most instances that:
- Infants interact with the non-custodial parent frequently, but in short visits; and
- That infants NOT spend significant lengths of time away from either parent.
Infant parenting plans often contain stages of gradually-increased parenting time for the non-custodial parent, which the child is easier able to tolerate as he/she gets a little older.
Long-Distance Parenting Plan
When parents live great distances from each other, Washington courts tend to favor long-distance parenting plans. This is primarily because routine, weekly parenting time for each parent is impractical and cost prohibitive. Also, courts do not want to disrupt a child’s weekly school routine and after-school activities by subjecting him or her to long drives during the week.
These plans often include blocks of parenting time during the children’s summer and winter vacations – but include very limited time during the actual school year.
Restricted Parenting Plan
Courts often will order restricted parenting plans when one parent has a history of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and/or recent drug or alcohol abuse. In these plans, the non-custodial parent is granted short, supervised visitation sessions, or may have other limitations placed upon them.
Courts generally are willing to allow for additional parenting if and when the non-custodial parent sufficiently demonstrates recovery.
Learn More about Child Custody Rights in Washington. Contact Us Today
If you are considering divorce or are in the midst of the process, it is beneficial to consult with competent legal counsel to advise you regarding your rights and responsibilities when it comes to proposing a parenting plan for you and your family.
If you would like more information about seeking custody or establishing a parenting plan in Washington, we invite you to speak with one of our attorneys. To schedule a consultation at our offices in Tacoma, call (253) 470-2356 or send us an email today.