In Washington, there is no automatic schedule for Parenting Plans. You can always come to an agreement on a parenting plan, but if you do not agree, it can be complicated.
When a court is making the decision, the court considers what they think is in the best interest of your children. The court will consider factors such as what the current parenting arrangement has been by agreement prior to going to court, the age of the children, their relationship with each parent, the distance between the parties’ households, and work schedules of each parent and more.
For younger children, it is not uncommon for parenting plans to have frequent exchanges during the week so that the child does not go more than a few days without seeing the other parent.
While 50/50 parenting plans are common, they are not guaranteed when they are contested. The court will consider how well the parents can communicate, and their proximity to one another as well as the school district for the children. Having less than 50 percent of the time with your children can have consequences for relocation in the future. If you have less than 45% percent of the time with your children, the other parent will likely be the named legal custodian and will have a rebuttable presumption that they can relocate with the child in the future.
In a contested custody situation, the court will also consider the conduct of each parent, and often will be provided with evidence such as text messages, photographs and screen shots of social media to demonstrate why a parent should not have as much time as they would like with their child.
If one parent has engaged in domestic violence, there will likely be limiting factors in a parenting plan that limit their contact with the children, their ability to make joint decisions for the child, and require them to go through evaluations, get treatment and demonstrate progress.
If a parent has engaged in substance abuse, this may also serve as a basis for limiting factors. The court may also appoint a Guardian ad Litem to interview the children and family members and friends and report to the court with recommendations. The court may also order evaluations for one or both parents where these concerns exist.
Once a Final Parenting Plan is entered, they are difficult to change. Asking the court to change a final parenting plan requires a substantial change in circumstances and/or proof that the existing schedule is detrimental to the children. Final Parenting Plans often require mediation outside of court before you try to modify the order in court.
There is nothing more important than your children. We have more than a decade of experience navigating parenting plans through litigation when needed or dispute resolution when possible. Let us help guide you through this process.