What is a “Parenting Plan”?
In Washington State, what we know as “custody” and “visitation” has been replaced with something called a “Parenting Plan.” It sets out specific times the child (under 18) will spend with each parent. It also sets out details such as, which parent will make what decisions regarding the child, how disputes between the parents will be resolved and any limits on parenting functions.
You can get a Parenting Plan as part of:
Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce); Petition for Legal Separation (Separation); Petition to Establish Parentage (Paternity); Petition to Modify Custody, or Petition for Non-Parental Custody, which is an action filed by a non-parent for custody of a child. A Petition for a Parenting Plan, which is filed when paternity has been established but no parenting plan was entered. When asking the court for a Parenting Plan, you will need to file one of these actions, fill out a number of forms and attend one or more hearings at court.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of filing a Parenting Plan?
Some people decide not to file a Parenting Plan because they don’t want to get the courts involved. They may have an informal agreement that works well for them or may think going to court will provoke the other parent.
Getting a Parenting Plan can give you:
Who can be part of the Parenting Plan?
The judge will try to incorporate both parents into the Parenting Plan. However, if one parent is unfit, a judge can award all of the parenting time and decision making authority to the other parent. In addition, a non-parent with a significant connection to the child might be entitled to non-parental custody.
Although the courts try to make sure the child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents, the judge will take acts of domestic violence into consideration when making a decision about custody. The judge will take this into consideration whether or not the victim pressed criminal charges or got a protective order against his/her abuser.
Can a parent who committed violence get “parenting time”?
Yes. While the law says that a judge is supposed to consider domestic violence when deciding parenting time, it is only one of several factors that a court will consider. Evidence of domestic violence will likely limit the “parenting time” though. Whether or not the violence will keep a parent from getting custody or visitation depends on the judge, and on the other issues in your case.
How will a judge make a decision about a Parenting Plan?
If the parents can’t agree on a Parenting Plan, the judge will make a decision based on what s/he thinks is in the “best interest” of the child. Both parents are required to complete a Declaration in Support of Parenting Plan, which is a form that includes information about the parenting functions each parent has been performing in the past 12 months. The idea is to limit the amount of change that the child will experience, so maintaining past parenting patterns is a strong factor when a judge needs to decide between competing proposals. In the “Declaration” you can also include any basis for restricting the other parent’s contact with the child. The judge might also talk with the child to determine what his/her wishes are.
Here are some things a judge may look at when determining a Parenting Plan:
Do I need a lawyer?
Custody disputes and the establishment of a Parenting Plan can be technically difficult to navigate, but perhaps more difficult is the emotional strain on the parties. I can help by taking an objective view and taking action on what is in your child’s best interests regarding parenting arrangements. The information I have provided here should get you started and help you with basic questions you might have. However, custody issues are complicated and frequently need the help of a lawyer. Unfortunately, at this time, you do not have a right to have a lawyer appointed for you in a civil case.
Contact Dave Hawkins today for a consultation.