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What is the law for a parenting plan and visitation rights?

One of the common issues that comes up in a Washington State child custody dispute is how the parenting plan will be established. State law has certain criteria when it comes to visitation rights, the best interests of the child and parents maintaining a relationship with children. Understanding how this law deals with the process can smooth any issues that will inevitably arise.256

If there is no reason to preclude or limit a dispute resolution process, the court will consider: the differences between the parents inhibiting participation; the wishes or agreements of the parents if they are voluntary; and the differences in the parents' finances allowing them to participate. Allocation of decision-making authority will hinge on agreements the parties have made if the agreement is consistent with limitations made on the decision-making authority of the parent and it is known and voluntary.

Sole decision-making authority can be ordered if the court finds that: there was a limitation on the decision-making authority of the other parent; if both parents are opposed to having decisions made mutually; or if one parent is opposed to the decisions being made mutually and the opposition is considered reasonable. When determining whether mutual decision-making authority is appropriate, courts will consider legal limitations under the law; the history of the parents participating in the decision-making; if the parents have shown that they will cooperate with one another; and if the parents are close to one another geographically so that the decisions can be made in a timely fashion.

With residential provisions, the parents will be encouraged to have a stable relationship and foundational home with the child. There will be a residential schedule with the following considered: the stability of the relationships; the agreements that the parties have made; the parents' potential to improve; the child's emotional needs and development; any relationship with siblings; the child's wishes; and the parents' employment schedules.

The idea behind legal grounds for establishing parental rights is for the good of the child. When parents are in the midst of a child custody dispute, they might forget that. The role of the courts is to make sure that the law is adhered to. When there is an issue or concern surrounding this, it is important that the parents have help from an experienced family law attorney.

Source: Washington State Legislature, "26.09.184. Criteria for establishing permanent parenting plan," accessed on Dec. 28, 2015

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