December 16, 2012

Parenting Plans

A parenting plan is a document that lays out the arrangements regarding the children of the parents. It discusses where the children will live, how much time they will spend with each parent, decision making arrangements regarding the children, and dispute resolution mechanisms for parenting issues. A parenting plan must be filed with the court when a couple with children divorces. Even if both parents agree on the terms of the parenting plan, the plan must still be approved by the court- which will consider whether the terms are in the best interests of the children.

Mandatory Restrictions: The court must restrict a parent's contact with a child if the parent has engaged in certain conduct, including: 
  • Willful abandonment for an extended time period
  • Substantial refusal to perform parenting functions 
  • Physical, sexual or pattern of emotional abuse 
  • History of domestic violence
  • Assault
  • Prior adult sex conviction
  • Lives with adult who has been convicted of a sex offense
       *The court may, however, decline to restrict contact if it finds future contact will not harm the child or past conduct did not affect the child. 

Discretionary Restrictions: The court may decide to limit residential time or contact with a parent based on a variety of other factors that would affect the child's best interests. 

Residential Time with Each Parent: Washington courts generally don't like to enter parenting plans that order 50-50 time with each parent. But they may do so if the parents have a history of cooperation and geographic proximity and 50-50 time is in the child's best interests.

Child's Wishes: Courts may consider the child's wishes in determining the residential schedule, especially if the child is older.

Because parenting plans cannot be changed without going back to court, it is important that both parents understand the terms of their parenting plan and that the terms reflect the unique concerns of the family.

For more information on parenting plans, contact a Kirkland Family Law Attorney

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