There is no perfect solution to the issues faced by families going through a divorce. What works for your family may not work for the next, and it is sometimes difficult to determine exactly what the right approach for child custody should be. You may be considering equally shared residential time with the children (also sometimes called “joint custody”), which is a popular choice for many Washington families facing divorce. Such a parenting plan will normally also provide for joint decision-making for important decisions involving the children’s education or medical care. While there are significant benefits to such an arrangement, it is not necessarily the best choice in every situation.
Before you make any choices that could impact your future long-term, it is important to consider all of your options. A final parenting plan in a divorce can be modified later if it does not work out, but modification is more difficult than most people think. The decisions you make during your divorce have the potential to impact your family for years to come, and it is critical to prioritize the needs of your kids above all else. shared custody does not necessarily mean that you will have equal custody of the kids; however, it does typically mean that parents will have relatively equitable access to their children and work collaboratively on important parenting decisions.
Decision-making and residential time
With any type of custody plan, the needs and the benefit of the children are the main priority. The Court’s highest priority is always “the best interests of the child,” and it is the highest goal of the parents as well. If the two of you agree on shared custody, you may have to set aside your own feelings in order to make your parenting plan work smoothly from the point of view of the kids. In any custody arrangement, you will have to specifically address the two main issues of decision-making and residential time.
“Decision making authority” in a parenting plan refers to the right of a parent to make important decisions on behalf of his or her child. “Residential time” refers to the actual amount of time each parent will have with their kids. This includes a schedule of overnights during the school year, weekend and mid-week visits, summer vacations, holidays, birthdays, and more. When parents agree on “joint custody” they usually mean that both parents will equally share decision-making and residential time. However, there are many parenting plans in which one parent makes most or all of the important parenting decisions, and has most of the residential time.
You can create a custody plan that is uniquely suited to the needs of your family. If you are unsure about how equally shared custody would work for you, or you want to know about other options available to you, it could be helpful to begin by speaking with an experienced professional before you make any important decisions. The details of your plan matter, and having assistance when creating your parenting plan may benefit the entire family.