Washington State parenting plans for child custody and visitation
Child custody and visitation or parenting plans are one of the most disputed issues in a divorce, legal separation, or parentage action. One parent is often restrictive, withholds parenting time without cause, or refuses to sign a parenting plan agreement, all which will hinder your ability to spend meaningful time with your child.
Fortunately, Divorce Lawyers for Men is a statewide network of top-tier family law attorneys who are devoted to assisting fathers like you to obtain an appropriate Washington state parenting plan.
To schedule your consultation and to learn more about how establishing or modifying a parenting plan could help your child, call (360) 866-7393.
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In Washington, a parenting plan is an enforceable court order that can establish many things, including:
- Legal and physical custody
- Visitation or parenting time, including holidays and school breaks
- Communication between the child and the noncustodial parent
- Dispute resolution procedures to be followed in the event of a disagreement
- Procedures to follow if either parent wishes to move with the child, potentially including maximum distances each parent can move, restrictions of moving the child from their school district, and more
If parents are unable to agree on a parenting plan at mediation or with the help of their attorneys, they can present their positions to the Court in a motion, then the judge will issue a parenting plan that they believe is in the child’s best interests.
Regardless of how it is established, either by agreement or court order, the more detail and specificity that goes into a parenting plan, the easier it will be for everyone to follow.
You can obtain a temporary parenting plan that must be followed while your case is pending, then a permanent parenting plan will be issued with your final judgment or decree. There are many more requirements for a permanent parenting plan than a temporary one, so it is important that you consult with an experienced Washington state parenting plan attorney.
Although it is called a “permanent” parenting plan, it can be changed should circumstances arise that would warrant a change.
Legal custody sets forth who is authorized to make important decisions regarding the child’s day-to-day care such as their education, medical care, and religion.
When reaching an agreement or when the Court issues an order for legal custody, the child’s best interests must be considered separate from what each parent wants. Generally, legal custody can be ordered in different ways, including:
- Joint custody – Both parents share the decision-making authority and must cooperate with each other when making those decisions.
- Sole custody – One parent is to make all decisions regarding the child and will usually be ordered to notify the other parent of those decisions in a timely manner.
- Either sole or joint custody may be awarded, however specific decision-making of certain things might be awarded to one parent such as medical care or education–this type of order is very case specific and will depend on the circumstances of the case.
A thorough parenting plan will include deadlines or time frames under which parents must respond to issues regarding important decisions or when the other parent must be notified of decisions that were made.
It is also important to include provisions for how long you must discuss the issue before proceeding with the next steps such as mediation or filing a motion. If it is a time-sensitive issue, your parenting plan may allow for a different resolution proposal.
Physical custody, residential placement, and parenting time
Physical custody refers to the physical care and supervision of a child. Like legal custody, physical custody can be awarded as joint or sole, however, the residential placement (where the child lives and when they spend time with each parent. This is often referred to as visitation or parenting time) can vary with each type of award.
In either type of physical custody order, you could have any of the following scenarios of residential placement:
- Sole physical custody and primary residential placement to Parent A and reasonable residential time to Parent B.
- Joint physical custody with primary residential placement to Parent A and reasonable parenting time to Parent B.
- Joint physical custody with an equal or 50/50 shared residential time arrangement.
There are several different types of residential agreements that can be agreed to or ordered, but ultimately the goal is to find one that’s best for your child during the school year, for school breaks and holidays, birthdays, vacations, and other special occasions.
Your attorney will help you determine which schedule is best for your child now and what options might be in the future as they grow older.
In addition to outlining the schedule itself and procedures for holidays and special days, your parenting plan should be very specific as to whom:
- Drives your child to and from visits
- Where exchanges occur
- Times of exchanges
- Who can be present at exchanges
- Additional considerations
The goal is to protect your rights as a father and to leave no room for the other parent to deny you custodial time due to an ambiguity in the order.
Your rights as a father are the same if you were married to the other parent, if you were previously in a dating relationship, or if you didn’t have an ongoing relationship at all, so long as paternity has been established.
Although the law states that the Court must consider what is in the child’s best interests when issuing any child custody or parenting time order and that they must not have a preference for one parent over the other, sometimes it seems as though certain judges are favorable to mothers.
It is important to your child’s future that you have a father’s advocate from Divorce Lawyers for Men on your side.
Factors considered by the Court when making child custody orders
In determining or approving a parenting plan, the judge must consider what is in your child’s best interests. There are several factors the Court may consider, including:
- Your child’s relationship with each parent
- Your child’s age
- Your child’s preference if the Court deems your child is mature enough to have input
- The child’s relationship with siblings or other people in each parent’s household
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child, which is evaluated by:
- The physical, emotional, and mental health of each parent
- Any history of domestic violence or abuse involving the child, the child’s other parent or a past partner
- Any history of drug abuse
- Work schedule
- Residential location
- Home stability
- General lifestyle
- The child’s ties to the community in each location
- Your child’s primary caretaker in the past
- Your child’s health
- Each parent’s ability to co-parent and communicate with each other.
Whether it is a temporary or permanent parenting plan, the general requirements are the same: the written proposal must be approved by the Court. The differences lie in how the proposal is presented for approval.
1. Try to reach an agreement
Trying to reach an agreement without going to court is often seen as the preferred method as it shows that you can co-parent effectively. You can do this in different ways.
- You can work through the terms together until you reach a mutually acceptable agreement, then submit it to the Court for approval.
- You can hire attorneys to help you reach an agreement while simultaneously ensuring that all legal requirements are met before it is submitted for approval.
- You can attend mediation (with or without your own attorneys) so that you’re assisted by a neutral person who can help the two of you reach common ground.
Sometimes it can be difficult to reach an agreement without the assistance of a professional, so it can be helpful to use a mediator or attorneys.
Mediation is a private and confidential process where the mediator, a neutral person, does not represent or advise either parent and does not issue orders. Instead, their goal is to help you reach an agreement with which you are both satisfied.
Mediators are often retired judges or experienced attorneys that can help ensure that your parenting plan meets the legal requirements. If you’re unable to reach an agreement, either among yourselves or with the assistance of attorneys or a mediator, you can move forward with litigation.
2. File a motion for a parenting plan
In order to get your issue before the judge, your attorney will help you draft a motion that outlines your proposed parenting plan, that details why you feel your proposal is in your child’s best interests, and that presents evidence to support your position. Your attorney can do this for either a temporary or permanent parenting plan.
Civility and cooperation are key
Whether you’re filing a motion to establish or modify a parenting plan or if you’re seeking a permanent order, it is important that you remain civil and cooperative with the other parent, that you follow all existing orders, and that you do not engage in behavior that could be viewed as inappropriate because the judge will take all of that into consideration each time they make an order.
You should be very mindful of what you say during phone calls and at exchanges or events, and you should be careful of what you write in emails, text messages, and in social media posts–you should even be careful of what you’re tagged in on social media.
A good rule of thumb for when you’re speaking or writing to the other parent is to imagine that the judge is going to see or read everything you say, write, or do, because they probably will. It is likely that all of your communications and social media posts (even photos you didn’t know were taken) will be presented to the judge as evidence of why your parenting plan shouldn’t be ordered. Use that lens to model your behavior.
Your Divorce Lawyers for Men attorney is on your side and wants to protect your rights and your child’s interests, so you need to be honest with them so that they can help you. This means being forthright about your past because anything that you’ve said or done could be used against you, and depending on what that might be, it could alter your lawyer’s strategy.
For example, your attorney might want to address it proactively instead of after it is already been presented in a bad light.
Standing up for your rights as a father
When faced with resistance and confrontation, some fathers may be tempted to give in and accept a proposal that limits their parenting time to “get it over with” and with the assumption that it’ll be easy to change later. That would be a bad decision. Giving up your custodial rights could hurt your child because it might result in them spending less meaningful time with you.
To ensure that your rights are protected and that you have a solid Washington State parenting plan, contact Divorce Lawyers for Men today to schedule your 30-minute consultation. Contact us online or call (360) 866-7393. We promise you the top-tier representation you deserve.