If you’re facing a divorce in Washington State, you are likely dealing with some stressful situations. Those concerns can be compounded if you have children. You and your spouse will need to come to an agreement on such things as who will have custody of the children and much more. A parenting plan addresses many of these issues, and you should understand what this document should include.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a legal document in a Washington State divorce that outlines how the parents plan to care for their children after the divorce. In general, it is a required document for divorces involving minor children.
The plan should address every major aspect of your children’s lives, such as custody, visitation, and preferred methods of communication. You and your ex should work together on the parenting plan. If you can’t come to an agreement, the courts will decide these matters for you.
Factors the Court Will Consider
Washington State family law courts always prioritize the best interests of the child. Before approving a parenting plan, the judge will ensure that it protects your child’s health, welfare, and safety. Specifically, these factors are used in the court’s decision:
- Your child’s age
- Your child’s health
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child
- Each parent’s relationship with the child
- Your child’s ties to home, community, and school
- Your child’s preference (depending on age and maturity)
- Any history of abuse by either parent
- Any history or evidence of alcohol or drug abuse by a parent
What to Include in Your Parenting Plan
At a minimum, every parenting plan in Washington State must address three topics:
Your parenting plan should thoroughly outline where your child will reside, when they will live there, and how visitation will work with the other parent. When a child lives with both parents, there is a joint residential schedule. If they live with just one parent, there is a sole residential schedule that may or may not have visitation. No matter what you decide, the parenting plan should be crystal clear about the type of schedule you choose and detail visitation dates and times.
Your parenting plan should include a section outlining how you will make various important choices for your child. These can range from non-urgent choices like sports and daycare to more essential topics like healthcare and education.
Most parents opt for joint decision-making, meaning they share the responsibility for major decisions, but you do have the option to give sole decision-making power to just one parent.
You can both agree that you’re going to work together, but it needs to be in writing — in detail. Your parenting plan should state how you will resolve any conflicts about the residential schedule or decisions. Some options include mediation, arbitration, and litigation.
Parenting plans do not address child support as this is handled separately.
Additional Considerations With Parenting Plans
The more detailed your parenting plan is, the better. These details can help prevent future conflicts between you and your ex. Even if you agree on matters now, take the time to address as many potential issues as possible in your parenting plan. Here are a few additional provisions you might wish to consider:
- Exchanges – Outline where and how your child exchanges will take place.
- Relocation – Include a clause stating how far away one parent can move without the other’s consent.
- Communication – Decide how and when a parent can communicate with the child when they are not in their custody.
- Response Time – Address how long a parent must wait for a response before they can make important decisions alone.
- Age Considerations – Remember to address situations that might occur as your child ages.
Get Help With Your Washington State Parenting Plan
Some couples can sit down and put together an effective parenting plan without conflicts, but it’s vital to remember that this is a legally binding document. So, even if you still get along, it’s important to protect you and your child’s best interests.
If you’re going through a divorce in Washington State, you don’t have to face it alone. Steller Legal Group can assist with all aspects of your divorce, including your parenting plan. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.