When parents in Washington decide to divorce, some of the most difficult matters to hammer out can be those related to child custody and visitation. While the marriage is coming to an end, both parents treasure their relationships with their children and want to ensure that they are protected. There are a number of arrangements that can be suitable for divorced parents depending on their family situation, employment needs and other issues.
For example, many families deal with child custody and visitation by establishing joint custody in which the parents share approximately equal time and decision-making authority over their children. For others, however, it may be a better choice for one parent to have sole or primary residential and even legal custody of the child. However, a visitation schedule helps ensure that the other parent also has time with the child to support their ongoing relationship; research shows that, absent abuse or neglect, children benefit from ties with both of their parents.
A visitation schedule is a source of conflict for many parents going through a more contentious divorce. It can be difficult to find agreement on how to change plans when issues come up, and when parents live far away from each other, transportation issues are also a concern. When seeking to write out a visitation schedule, both parents' attorneys can be part of the process or lead the negotiations themselves in order to reach an agreement more quickly. Depending on circumstances, the schedule could specify whether the non-custodial parent's visitation is supervised or unsupervised.
While a visitation schedule is generally used for non-custodial parents, a similar framework called a parenting plan can be used for parents who want to develop guidelines for sharing child custody. A family law attorney may help divorcing parents protect their interests and relationship with their children.