When you chose to have children with your spouse, you probably didn't think about what would happen if you eventually ended your marriage. Most couples conceive their children when they still foresee spending the rest of their life with their spouse. Unfortunately, circumstances and people can change, leaving you worried about how divorce is going to affect your relationship with your children.
The good news for people in Washington considering divorce is that the state typically wants to protect the relationship between the children and both parents when they create the parenting plan. Your parenting plan can come from the courts through litigation or from you and your spouse via mediation or an uncontested divorce filing.
All court decisions in custody matters focus on the children
The guiding principle that the Washington courts use to handle custody is the best interests of the children involved. Most children benefit from having a broad network of social support, which means having a good relationship with both parents. It also means maintaining social ties and avoiding instability during divorce and afterward.
Letting the children stay in the family home, keeping them in the same school district, and maintaining connections with their friends and neighbors can all minimize the negative consequences of divorce on a child's social and emotional health. In fact, the courts will likely frown on a parent who tries to cut the child off from their former spouse or engages in parental alienation tactics, such as speaking poorly about the other parent in front of the children.
The courts want to see parents work together with a focus on helping the kids after divorce, as opposed to parents who use their children as a weapon against their ex. The parenting plan will reflect what the courts believe is the most stable and workable solution for the family.
There is plenty of room for negotiation in a parenting plan
No matter how well-intentioned they may be, the courts can't know your family as well as you can. With a little foresight and consideration, it may be possible for you and your ex to work together to create arrangements for co-parenting. You could create and submit your own parenting plan to the courts as part of an uncontested divorce, provided that you agree on important issues.
If you don't currently agree on the details of your parenting plan, you could also try mediation. Working with a mediator and your attorneys could help you create a customized parenting plan that truly reflects what your children need.
Otherwise, the Washington family courts will create a parenting plan that outlines parenting time and other parental rights and responsibilities, as well as child support. Partnering with an experienced family law attorney can help you secure a positive outcome in your upcoming divorce and custody proceedings.