LLLT Guideline to Creating a Parenting Plan

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This Blog is to guide parties into understanding the criteria required for parenting plans in Washington State.  Parenting Plans in Washington are governed under RCW 26.09 – The following is to assist parties with creating a parenting plan for their child.

In creating a parenting plan, please note that Washington does not use the term “custody” or “visitation schedule,” instead the parties or parents must create “residential time” for the child that will provide where the child will reside every hour of every day of the year.

Things to Consider when Developing the Parenting Plan

Courts in Washington encourage parents to work together to make a schedule they both agree upon. When parents submit a schedule together to the court, the court will most likely approve it and make it part of the court order.  The clearer the parties are on the intent for the parenting plan the easier it will be for the court to approve the plan.  For example, the child will reside with Parent A beginning at 8:00 a.m. on Monday until Wednesday when the child is dropped off at school or the home of Parent B, then the child will reside with Parent B beginning at 8:00 on Wednesday until Friday when the child is dropped off at school or the home of Parent A, and the parties will alternate every other weekend beginning on Friday and ending on Monday morning, when the child is dropped off at Parent A or school. The court does not approve schedules that are not in the best interest of the child.

If you and the other parent cannot agree on a schedule, the court will decide on a schedule that they believe best reflects the past parenting, current parenting and future parenting. This is done by each parent submitting their proposed parenting plan and supporting documentation, a motion for a temporary family law order and a hearing notice.  The court may decide to approve either parent’s schedule or create a new schedule.

Criteria to Include in a Parenting Plan:

  • How the parties will address the needs of the child and to allow the child to have a stable and loving relationship with both parents.
  • The schedule should show
    • where the child is to reside during the school year on weekdays and weekends.
    • where the child is to reside on holidays, (Christmas, Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving, New Years Eve/Day, winter school break, spring break and special days such as birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day).
    • where the child is to reside during the summer break.
  • How the parties will make the transfer exchange of the child (at each other home, school or day care)
  • How the parties will transport the child.
  • How the parties will vacation with the child.

Additional factors to consider when making your parenting plan schedule.

Thinking about the following factors will help you make a schedule that works for your family. The court also considers these factors when looking to approve a schedule that parents have made or the court is making a schedule for parents who don’t agree.

  • The Best Interest of the Child
    • The relative strength, nature and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent
    • The agreements parents have made about the schedule
    • How parents have shared parenting functions
    • If one parent has taken greater responsibility taking care of the daily needs of the child
    • The emotional needs and developmental level of the child
    • The child’s relationship with siblings and other significant adults
    • The child’s involvement with school, community, and other significant activities
    • The wishes of the parents
    • The wishes of the child who is able to mature enough to make decisions
    • Each parent’s employment schedule
    • The geographic proximity of the parents’ homes

If you have questions about parenting plans either agreed upon or contested, please contact Premier Legal Technician Firm for a free consultation to discuss your options and assist with the process and preparation of your parenting plan.