In Washington, “custody” arrangements for children are set forth in a formal “Parenting Plan.” A Parenting Plan sets forth the residential schedule, decision-making authority and other provisions governing children.
Coming up with a Parenting Plan which serves the best interests of the child can be one of the more challenging aspects of a divorce, paternity or child custody action. Both parents want what is best for the children, but their views on the matter are often divergent from one another or are more focused on their own self-interests as opposed to the “best interests” of the child.
In the absence of an agreement between the parents, courts in Washington are given the responsibility of coming up with a Parenting Plan that serves the best interests of the child. RCW 26.09.187 requires a Court to consider:
The standards will vary depending of the precise nature of the legal proceeding so it is vital that you work with experienced legal counsel. At Spencer and Sundstrom we have over fifty years experience in child custody litigation.
At Spencer & Sundstrom, we understand the law surrounding child custody litigation and parenting plans. We take the time to fully understand your goals with regard to your children. In some cases, a parent’s goals are not possible under the law. If your goals are unattainable, we will let you know upfront and explain your legal options.
It is important for divorcing couples to reach an agreement about a parenting plan on their own whenever possible. Experience tells us that negotiated parenting plans are desirable as both parents have had the opportunity to contribute to the plan such that the plan adequately encompasses their needs and their compromises.
The alternative? If parents cannot negotiate a parenting plan between themselves, the Court will make a determination on it own. The result is a parenting plan which often does not work well because the Judge is usually not intimately familiar with the circumstances of each party or of the children.
A final parenting plan is binding and cannot be changed without a court-approved modification, which can be difficult to secure in the absence of an agreement between the parties. The standards for a modification can be found at RCW 26.09.260 and any modification to a parenting plan is subject to a presumption in favor of continuing the custodial continuity under the existing parenting plan.
Spencer and Sundstrom is skilled at helping clients reach agreements on even the most strongly contested parenting plans and, if unsuccessful, we are experienced in getting the best results possible for our clients in the courtroom.
Contact our office today to talk to one of our attorneys about your divorce case. We will give you an honest assessment of your case and help you understand your legal options. You can reach us by phone at 360-356-1710 or via e-mail.