When a marital dissolution involves children, good communication and a fair Parenting Plan are essential for the protection of the children’s emotional health. Parenting Plans are court orders that provide each parent with time with their children. This time is called "residential time." Washington State no longer uses the word "custody" when discussing who has the majority of the residential time with the children. When primary residential time is agreed upon and followed from the beginning, divorced parents establish a predictable, stable environment for their children as they come to terms with their new situation. There are many options for how children can spend time with both parents and because every family is unique, it is important to take the time to devise the best plan for your situation.
Parenting Plans Are About More Than Where a Child Will Spend Christmas
While a parenting plan will lay out the details of where a child lives and when he or she visits the other parent, it will also outline each parent’s legal rights and obligations regarding the child. For example, the plan will specify how the parents will make major decisions for the child. If you have children, this plan may involve the most critical decisions you will make in your divorce. Our family law attorneys will discuss all of your options and help you fight for what matters most to you. We will help you craft a plan that meets your needs and, more importantly, the needs of your children. This may mean coming up with unusual solutions, but, as a guideline, we share some common arrangements.
Common Residential Schedules
Almost any arrangement is possible if it is in the best interest of the children, but the following are some of the standard arrangements many people make:
- 50/50 joint physical custody. In this arrangement, the children spend an equal amount of time over the course of the month with each parent. This may be accomplished by alternating weeks or rotating several days at a time with each parent. Ideally, parents live close to each other and in the same school district to make this arrangement easier on the children.
- Primary custody with one parent. Under this traditional arrangement, the child lives full-time with one parent—often the mother, but not necessarily—and visits the other parent according to an agreed-upon schedule. This may mean spending every other weekend and some school holidays with the non-primary residential parent. If the non-primary residential parent lives far away, this arrangement may mean only spending longer holidays, such as the summer, with that parent.
- Limited visitation. If there is any question about the ability of one parent to properly supervise the children, such as significant issues with substance abuse or violence, he or she may be granted only limited visitation. These visits may require supervision by a social worker or other official and may be limited to only a few hours at a time. If the non-custodial parent is deemed completely unfit, he or she may be not be granted any right to visitation at all.
There are many options within these main types of arrangements and other factors may need to be considered. For example, grandparents may request formal visitation rights if the parents are unfit because of abuse in the home or they struggle with substance abuse problems. Our experienced attorneys have encountered a variety of situations and are prepared to help you with yours.
Making Changes to Custody Agreements
The Parenting Plan is a legally binding document and changes can only be made by going back to court to request a change. If a custodial parent needs to relocate out of state, for example, he or she must file a notice of relocation, which the other parent has the right to object to. This can lead to a difficult negotiation and a completely new parenting plan. Whether de Maar Law helped you with your initial plan or not, we can help you when you need to make changes—or fight changes requested by your ex.
You Need an Experienced Litigator on Your Side
No matter how amicable your divorce is, you should not relax your defenses when it comes to child custody arrangements. At de Maar Law, our family attorneys have the experience to anticipate problems and craft a plan for you that avoids them. Call our office to learn more about our child custody services.