When parents divorce, they have to work through the emotional challenges that stem from losing their spouse and being around their children at will. Although the marriage ended because one or both people chose to end the relationship, their love for their children remains constant. It is common for divorced parents to worry about what the future will look like and how much time they will spend with their children. During your divorce, you will work with your spouse and your attorneys to develop a parenting plan which is also referred to as a “residential schedule” in Washington State. There are three essential components to it:
- Who will handle decisions for the children
- Where the child lives throughout the year
- A plan for dispute resolution
Three Pieces of a Parenting Plan in Greater Detail
The first piece addresses who can make choices on behalf of the child and the types of decisions. Parents have three basic ways of dividing the decision-making process:
- Joint Decision-Making: Both parents have equal responsibility
- Limited Decision-Making: Each parent makes specific decisions
- Sole Decision-Making: One parent is responsible for the entirety of the decisions
Typically, the decisions are in regards to education and non-emergency medical care. For example, parents with joint decision-making must agree on where the child goes to school if the child will attend a different school outside of their school district. And what type of medical care the child can receive that isn’t immediate and urgent. You and your spouse can add other key areas. For instance, you can incorporate when your child should drive and extracurricular activities (and how to pay for them).
The second element of a parenting plan is determining where the child will reside and when. When the child spends time with both parents equally, it is a joint or 50/50 residential schedule. However, a primary residential schedule (the child spends the majority of their time with one parent) with restrictions or limitations on the other parent’s visitation may be appropriate if one parent has a history of abusing alcohol, using drugs, or has been abusive to the spouse or child.
Lastly, the parenting plan outlines how the parents will resolve disputes about the parenting plan. Vaccinations during the pandemic are a prime example. What happens when a couple has joint decision-making abilities but is at odds regarding whether they should vaccinate their child? This two-person tie may require the help of an outside party, such as a family law mediator. Parents may choose to bring their issues to court, but doing so is time-consuming and expensive. Alternatively, many people opt to go to mediation or arbitration. The parenting plan can include the names of mediators the parties want to hire when disagreements about the parenting plan come up.
Build a Parenting Plan with Akiona Law
At Akiona Law, PLLC, we work towards creating a parenting plan that benefits your children and you. Spending time with both parents is likely in your children’s best interests when children have two responsible parents. Additionally, we can incorporate several other important things into your plan:
- When and how often the child can communicate or call either parent;
- The details surrounding pick-up & drop-off;
- Appropriate restrictions or limitations on a parent’s time if they have an addiction or mental health issues;
- Creating the weekly and holiday schedules in a 50/50 parenting plan.
Think of your parenting plan as the foundation for a strong co-parenting relationship. Contact Akiona Law, PLLC, to schedule your consultation.