Divorcing or separating parents will have to work out an arrangement that allows both parents to maintain a relationship with their child after the separation. In Washington, a child custody arrangement is referred to as a parenting plan. The parenting plan must answer the following questions:
- How much time will the child spend with each parent?
- How will the child go from one parent’s home to the other?
- Which parent will make major decisions about the child’s upbringing?
- How will disagreements between the parents be addressed?
Generally, if both parents agree to a parenting plan and the plan addresses the above questions to the court’s satisfaction, the court will approve the proposed parenting plan and it will become an official order that both parents must follow. However, if the parents are unable to agree, they will have to go to trial, where a judge will hear both sides and then make a final determination.
Shared or sole parenting time and decision-making
In many cases, both parents will share parenting time with the child as well as decision-making responsibilities. However, this does not mean that each parent will share time equally. The child’s parents or the court will determine which shared time arrangement serves the best interests of the child.
In some cases, however, it is not possible for parents to share parenting time and decision-making, due to one parent’s unwillingness or incapacity to care for the child, a history of domestic violence, or the parents’ inability to cooperate. If a parent has sole parenting time and sole decision-making powers, the child will live with that parent fulltime, and that parent will make all decisions regarding the child.
It can be hard to create a parenting plan with your ex, especially when you are having trouble getting along. Having an attorney in your corner throughout the separation process can be beneficial to both you and your child.