A Parenting Plan is an order by the court that determines the amount of time that a child or children will spend with each parent. This is referred to as the residential schedule, and then the Parenting Plan will also determine the strategy for settling debates between the guardians, and whether both parents will be able to make decisions with regards to the child or children.
Often parents will assume that whoever has been the primary, or default, caregiver will be determined to have the child or children on a more full-time basis. In the state of Washington, this is not the case. Rather, the court is needed to consider and adjust seven elements while deciding the arrangements of a lasting Child Custody/Parenting Plan. These elements, found in RCW 26.09.187(3), are as per the following, with the first factor given the most consideration:
- The relative quality, nature, and security of the child or children’s relationship with each parent;
- Any agreements that have already been reached by the parents, as long as they were done in a voluntary way
- Both parents’ ability to be a good parent, using any past or present examples. The court will consider the fact that one parent has done more than the other, although this will not be the deciding factor.
- The developmental and emotional needs of the child or children are of importance.
- If there are any siblings or other family members that the child or children have a close relationship with that may be impacted by a Parenting Plan, this will be considered, as well as any details regarding school and extracurricular activities.
- Parent and child or children’s desires will be considered.
- The parent’s work schedules and the ability to make accommodations for the child or children.
While thinking about these factors, the court must settle on a choice that is in the best interest of the child or children, and this may not always be what you expect. However, if the best interest of the child is demonstrated by existing relationships and schedules then that is what the court will determine. The ultimate goal is to protect any child from harm whether physical, mental or emotional and, completely turning their world upside down will not be the court’s goal if they can help it.
Having legal counsel by your side during the development and implementation of a Parenting Plan is critical to making sure it is done justly and fairly for your child or children. Let Community Law Firm help you by calling us today. We can be reached at 206-771-4343 for our Seattle office, or 425-551-8075 for Bellevue.