As you consider divorce and its potential implications for your life, you may not be ready to move forward with the legal process, but you also do not want to remain in the home with your spouse. Many Washington couples choose to legally separate instead, giving themselves the opportunity to live apart while preparing for divorce or working toward reconciliation. If you are ready to separate, there is much more involved with this process than simply moving out.
Your separation period could last months or even years. That is why it is beneficial to have the protection of a formal agreement that will outline various important aspects of your life, such as property division, financial support and child custody. The custody of your children and a visitation schedule are important elements of a final divorce order, and they are important parts of a separation agreement as well.
Protection your parental rights
You have important parental rights you will want to protect during this time, and you will also want to ensure that your kids have some stability during your separation. This likely means providing them with as much continuity of lifestyle and relatively equitable access to both parents. In your separation agreement, the right way to approach custody depends on the needs of your child and your unique family situation. Regardless of your objectives, it’s important to formally address the following:
- Physical custody – This refers to the amount of time your child will spend with his or her parent, including weekends, vacations, holidays and special occasions.
- Legal custody – This refers to the right that a parent has to make important decisions on behalf of his or her child, such as those referring to religious training, education and more.
If the custody and visitation schedule you create for your separation works well for your family, you can choose to carry this over into a final divorce order in the future if you move forward with this process.
What’s best for the kids?
The goal of any custody or visitation schedule during a time of separation is to protect the best interests of the children above all else. When you are considering terms or navigating negotiations, it will be helpful to set aside your own temporary emotions and consider what will work best for your kids for the months and years ahead.