In a divorce, child custody and visitation are often the most difficult issues to settle. Every parent wants to spend as much time with their children as possible. As a father, you want to know that your visitation and custody rights will be respected and you will be able to see your children and be involved in their lives. In Washington divorce law, the Parenting Plan is the legal document that details and enforces custody and visitation.
Understanding the Parenting Plan
If you are a father facing divorce, your main concern is when and how often you will be able to see your children. You are likely spending time looking at the calendar, counting days, and thinking about who will have the kids during vacations. This is important because it affects your children.
Like you, the law is concerned with determining what is in the best interest of your children. To achieve this, the court requires a Parenting Plan. This written document details each of the parent’s rights and obligations to the children. This is the source document that will eventually spell out your custody and visitation rights. When there is a dispute, the court will enforce the terms of the Parenting Plan. It is vitally important to get it right the first time.
Since the Parent Plan is filed with the court, you may be wondering who decides custody and visitation. In the best case, you and your children’s mother are able to decide on a plan with terms agreeable to both of you. This may take some negotiation back and forth between your attorneys.
Parenting Plans are filed with the court and must be approved by a judge. If the parties in a divorce cannot agree to a Parenting Plan, the court can step in and make those decisions for the parents. The law requires the judge to act in the best interest of the children.
Guardian ad Litem
During the divorce proceedings the court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). The GAL’s role is to provide a neutral and unbiased report to the court concerning the best interests of the children involved.
The GAL will interview the parents, children, perform home visits and background checks. The GAL prepares a report and delivers it to the court. The report will help the parents in negotiating an agreement, or the judge reaching a decision. The parenting plan will declare which parent is to be awarded primary custody (residential care) of the children, and the visitation awarded to the other parent, or the details of the arrangement for joint custody.
Should You Settle for Less?
Faced with resistance and disagreement from the other side, some fathers may be tempted to give in and just accept less in order to complete the Parenting Plan. Debating custody and visitation with your soon-to-be former spouse is just one of the emotionally draining events that can happen during a divorce. You may reason that it is better to give in than to let the court decide for you. You can always change things later. Right? Wrong!
You should never feel that you have to give up your rights just to settle matters. At Divorce Lawyers For Men, we never accept the outdated notion that men deserve less custody or visitation in a divorce. The Parenting Plan will be in effect for many years, it needs to support your rights as a father and your continued involvement in your child’s life.
Nearly Set in Stone
During the divorce process, temporary Parenting Plans may be approved by the court. Ultimately, all parties are working towards the final Parenting Plan. A binding court order, the Parenting Plan governs custody and visitation until the children reach the age of 18. The court has the power to enforce the terms of the Parenting Plan. In order to maintain consistency for the children, the court is usually reluctant to change the Parenting Plan at a later time.
Since it is so difficult to change a Parenting Plan after the divorce, it is important to make sure the final plan is something you can live with for many years to come. The attorneys of Divorce Lawyers For Men are well-experienced in negotiating Parenting Plans and fighting for the rights of fathers in divorce cases. We are here to help you spend more time with your children.
More than Just Visitation
The Parenting Plan covers more than just who has the children over summer break. The plan also defines both legal and physical custody. The Parenting Plan declares who has authority to make decisions about the children’s health, education, and welfare. Decisions such as which school the children will attend, which doctors the children will see, and even what religion the children will practice are set out in the Plan. The Parenting Plan also controls how future disputes will be resolved. A properly written Parenting Plan will answer all the important questions about which parent can do what and when.
Divorce Lawyers For Men™ attorneys provide skilled, compassionate, and effective representation to help fathers move successfully through this legal maze, and to preserve their relationship with their children.
“Thank you DLFM for meeting with me and guiding me through the legal paperwork labyrinth that got me to such a great result and allowed me to be in my son’s life far more than every other weekend.” – Matt F.