When parents split up, they need to establish a Parenting Plan to dictate how they will work together to raise their child. A well-crafted Parenting Plan can protect children from parental conflict more effectively while also ensuring that parents meet children's physical and emotional needs. Parenting Plans can anticipate changes in the child's needs over time, thus reducing the frequency with which parents need to return to court to modify parenting arrangements. Washington Parenting Plans must contain some key provisions that outline each parent's rights and responsibilities.
One of the main purposes of a Parenting Plan is to allocate which parent carries out various parenting functions. Washington statutes define parenting functions to include:
- Meeting the child's emotional needs through a loving and stable relationship
- Meeting the child's daily needs, such as feeding, clothing and physical care
- Attending to the child's education
- Helping the child develop interpersonal relationships
- Making appropriate decisions regarding the child's well-being
- Supporting the child financially
The parents can agree to divide parenting functions in a certain way within the plan, or the court can limit parenting functions if it finds the need to do so.
Components of a Parenting Plan
The law requires each Parenting Plan include:
- Residential provisions: The Parenting Plan must describe where the child is going to live and how much time the child will spend with each parent. The Parenting Plan must include a schedule for holidays, vacations and other special occasions.
- A dispute resolution method: The parents must outline what method they will use to solve disagreements other than by going to court, such as counseling, mediation or arbitration.
- Allocation of decision-making authority: The parents must specify who will make decisions regarding the child's education, healthcare and religious instruction. The parents may designate one or both as decision-makers in a given area. Either parent has the right to make emergency decisions, regardless of what the Parenting Plan dictates.
Consult an Attorney
A good Parenting Plan clearly outlines each parent's rights and responsibilities and identifies a dispute resolution method for when the parties disagree. Parents facing custody issues should consult an experienced family law attorney who can help guide them through the process of obtaining a Parenting Plan.