Family Law: Parenting Plan
A Parenting Plan is a document that addresses the issues associated with making arrangements for children, traditionally referred to as custody and visitation issues. In Washington, a Parenting Plan specifically sets forth the respective rights and responsibilities of both parents regarding their children. If married parents of minor children are seeking a dissolution or legal separation, a Parenting Plan is required.
Along with allocating residential time between the parents, a Parenting Plan also provides for decision making authority and dispute resolution process. The residential provisions must provide when the children will reside with both parents. It may be more time with one parent than the other, but both parents have residential time (there is no custody and visitation). The Parenting Plan must spell out how decisions are made, either by the mother, the father, or by both parents jointly. On major issues such as health, education and religious upbringing. The Parenting Plan must also spell out how disputes between the parents in implementing the plan are to be resolved. The options are either counseling, mediation, arbitration or court action.
In entering a Parenting Plan, the best interests of the child is the standard by which the Court determines and allocates the parties’ parental responsibilities. The legal standard can be found on this article. These interests are met with an arrangement that best maintains a child’s emotional growth, health and stability, and physical care. Further, the best interest of the child is ordinarily served when the existing pattern of interaction between a parent and child is altered only to the extent necessitated by the changed relationship of the parents or as required to protect the child from physical, mental, or emotional harm.
After the entry of the final Parenting Plan, it can be modified only under limited circumstances.