Family Law: Decision Making in Parenting Plans

Parents have the responsibility to make decisions and perform other parental functions necessary for the care and growth of their minor children. In Washington, a Parenting Plan contains a provision for decision making authority. The Parenting Plan allocates decision making authority solely to one parent or jointly to both parties regarding the child’s education, health care, religious upbringing, and other major decisions. The parties may incorporate an agreement related to the care and growth of the child in these specified areas, or in other areas, into their Parenting Plan. Regardless of the allocation of decision-making in the Parenting Plan, either parent may make emergency decisions affecting the health or safety of the child. Each parent may make decisions regarding the day-to-day care and control of the child while the child is residing with that parent.

When mutual decision making is designated but cannot be achieved, the parties shall make a good-faith effort to resolve the issue through the dispute resolution process, as provided for in the Parenting Plan. This may involve counseling, mediation or arbitration. If this does not resolve the issue, then the parties may bring a motion in court to resolve the dispute.