Most of the time when parents split up, Washington state courts try to encourage both parents to continue to play an active role in their child's life. Judges will often ask that the parents do their best to come up with an agreeable parenting plan that will serve the needs of the children and fit in with the new family dynamic. While the court will make outright decisions in these matters, parents should sort through as many of the details themselves.
What's included in a parenting plan?
Parenting plans are most often associated with divorce cases, where two parents who have been married living with their children for some time decide to divorce. They can also be necessary if unmarried cohabiting parents separate, and even when a child's parents never cohabited, but one or both parents want to better define the time they spend with their children.
In a parenting plan the following issues need to be decided:
- Where the child will live
- How much time they will spend with each parent
- How each parent will be involved in making major decisions for child
- How parents will work together to solve major disagreements
The courts often have several possible parenting plans at their disposable, especially when it comes to exactly when a child is to spend time with each parent. They may suggest a plan where the child goes back and forth between households frequently. Some plans have the child spend time with the child every other weekend only. Many define which holidays are going to be spent with which parent and the extended family.
Occasionally other close relatives will ask to be included on the parenting plan, especially when there have been issues such as domestic violence in the home. Other issues, such as the desire for one parent to live outside of the area can also complicate parenting plans.
Figuring out the plan
Family law attorneys frequently play a strong role in helping parents come up with the parenting plan that makes the most sense for their family. If the parents are not going to be living in the same area, a lawyer will work with these circumstances and try to help the couple come up with a fair arrangement so that the parents can still stay active in the kids' lives. In many instances, lawyers help them find qualified mediators to work through more sensitive issues rather than giving that power to the judge.
Parenting plans aren't the only aspect of a divorce, but for couples with kids they likely among the most important. A Washington lawyer can help assure that your interests and those of your kids are properly covered.