Washington State Parenting Plans: An Overview

 In Child Custody

If you’re litigating a child custody case in Washington state, you won’t hear attorneys and the judge use words like “sole custody” and “joint custody.” Instead, you’ll probably most often hear the words, “parenting plan.” As a fundamental part of the state’s custody law, Washington’s Parenting Act of 1987 requires that a parenting plan be central to all custody cases.

The state legislature designed the Parenting Act to use parenting plans to prioritize the child’s best interests in legal separation, annulment, or divorce cases that involve minor children. Parents can work out a parenting plan informally between themselves, or a plan can be determined by a judge, but either way, the document must be approved by the court.

The Parenting Plan Template

Washington state has never defined what a “typical” parenting plan is. But in the three decades since the Parenting Act was passed, Washington legal professionals have developed an informal industry standard for the plan. Lawyers generally use the standard when they write up and litigate parenting plans, and many judges and divorce commissioners use the loose plan template as a baseline for determining how much time each parent should receive with their children in contested custody cases.

Here are a couple of basic issues that a parenting plan addresses:

Legal vs. Physical Custody

Legal custody determines who has the authority to make decisions about the religious and cultural instruction, education, and health care of the child. Courts may award legal custody to one parent or the parents may divide the responsibility between themselves.

Physical custody involves the residential schedule for the child. Living arrangement plans must factor in school schedules, transportation, length of stays or parent visits. These arrangements must be laid out clearly and specifically in the parenting plan.

Residential Schedule

Parenting plans center around a residential schedule, which delineates who has residential care of the child each day. Most often, the child lives with one parent, and the other parent receives residential care on specifically named days.

The typical parenting plan—commonly known as the “every other weekend” plan—allots visitation on every other weekend. Parents with these kind of visitation rights are often also allowed a short visit with the child during the middle of each week, and half the residential time during holidays and special occasions.

Getting Legal Help to Create a Parenting Plan

Depending on the temper of the relationship between divorcing spouses, putting together a parenting plan can become an arduous and complicated task. John L. Davis PLLC can use his years of experience in custody cases to help you create a parenting plan that puts the needs of your child first. Contact our Vancouver office today at (360) 597-4740 to schedule a consultation with an understanding and trusted divorce attorney.

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