Example Parenting Plans

Example Parenting Plans | WA Divorce & Family Law

by Samuel K. Darling, Bellevue Divorce Lawyer

This article provides five example parenting plans from Washington State and briefly describes them. Each of the five represents a common category of parenting plan, ranging from a normal parenting plan to one that protects the children from a dangerous parent. Not all custody-related orders fully conform to one of these five, but most do at least to some degree.

Table of Contents:
1) Typical,
2) Long-Distance,
3) Joint Custody,
4) Infant,
5) Restricted, and
6) Other Parts of the Parenting Plan.

If you don’t have a parenting plan yet, you might be interested in our article on How to Win Custody: Positioning & Gathering Evidence.


Example 1: The Typical Parenting Plan

The baseline parenting plan in Washington is what we sometimes call an “every-other-weekend” plan. As the name implies, this type of parenting plan affords visitation to the non-custodial parent every-other weekend, plus usually a short weekly visit of about 2-4 hours. The exact language might be something to the following effect:

“The child shall reside primarily with Mother, except for the following days and times when the child shall reside with Father: From Friday at 5 pm to Sunday at 5 pm every-other weekend, and every Wednesday from 5 pm to 8 pm.”

We have a full article on the subject, which you can read by clicking here: Normal Parenting Plan in Washington State. Most cases result in a custodial arrangement that involves every-other-weekend exchanges, plus some additional time. The typical working parent from the 1960s would probably only receive every-other-weekend, whereas a highly involved non-custodial parent in the 21st century might receive every-other-weekend plus two or three additional overnights every two-week rotation.

Click here for a Word copy of an example normal parenting plan. Click here for example language our firm often uses for breaks and vacations.


Example 2: The Long-Distance Parenting Plan

Washington courts usually adopt a long-distance parenting plan when the parties live far apart – distances that would make weekly child exchanges impractical. If, for instance, the parents live in different states or countries, a long-distance parenting plan would probably be appropriate. A long-distance parenting plan generally affords the non-custodial parent blocks of time during summer and winter break, but little time during the school year.

Notably, our firm believes typical long-distance parenting plans can be traumatic for children and parents, so we often advocate for a slightly unorthodox version. For more, see our article on long-distance parenting plans in Washington State. Click here for our firm’s long-distance parenting plan template. It is on an outdated version of Washington’s mandatory form parenting plan template, but it the information is the same. You can probably get away with using the old form, or you copy and paste sections of our long-distance parenting plan template into the current mandatory form parenting plan if you prefer. The state’s mandatory form template continually changes, but the gist remains the same. If you use our template rather than the state’s, please delete all reference to our firm in the lower right corner of each page.

We also have an article on How to Move with the Children, a topic that might lead to a long-distance parenting plan.

Picture of parties in need of a long-distance parenting plan.
Parties definitely need a long-distance parenting plan if the child(ren) will fly between the parents’ homes.

Example 3: Joint Custody

Joint custody is rare in Washington but becoming more common. In essence, joint custody means each parent receives half the residential time with the child. This often takes the form of a “week-on, week-off” schedule. For example, the parenting plan might state as follows:

“The child shall reside with Mother for 1 week, with Father the next, and continue alternating between the 2 households on a “week-on, week-off” basis. The exchange time each week shall be Friday at 5 pm.”

Courts shy away from joint custody in contentious custody disputes; in combative relationships, judges assume it is better for a child to have a home-base, so to speak. Similarly, courts usually refuse to order split custody when either parent lives more than a short drive from the child’s school. So, if you want equal residential time, strive to enter an agreed parenting plan with the other parent and/or ensure you live near the other parent. A third trick to obtaining joint custody is to request a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). This is because some GALs favor joint custody, and judges will often adopt whatever parenting plan an assigned GAL recommends. Just make sure you find out which GALs favor joint custody and specifically request them by name.

Here is an example joint custody parenting plan.

Sometimes clients ask our firm for a parenting plan that equally divides parenting time but splits up the children. For example, the father might receive almost all the parenting time with the older child and the mother might receive almost all the time with the younger child. Courts almost never allow this type of custodial arrangement unless the parties agree to it and can provide a strong explanation as to why it benefits the children. Caselaw states that children should otherwise remain together for psychological reasons. In the rare instances courts do allow this kind of a 50/50 parenting plan, it’s called split custody or an Arvey split, after a famous case explaining how to determine child support in a split custody arrangement.

Picture of parents who equally share custody of their child.
Courts often avoid 50/50 parenting plans unless the parties agree to it or a Guardian ad Litem recommends it.

Example 4: Infant Parenting Plan

Experts in infant psychology typically recommend a) that infants have shorter but more frequent interactions with the non-custodial parent, and b) that infants not spend overnights away from the custodial parent. If the mother is breastfeeding, this commonly means she receives primary care, and the father visits with the child several times per week – perhaps every day – for a few hours each time. Often parenting plans for infants contain several stages, culminating in an every-other-weekend or split-custody plan. We have an article on infant parenting plans, and here is an example infant parenting plan.

Example 5: Restricted Parenting Plan

A restricted parenting plan may be appropriate if a parent presents a danger to the child. Often this means the parent has a history of drug abuse, physical abuse, or sexual abuse. Restricted plans typically entail short sessions of supervised visitation – no overnights or alone time unless the parent demonstrates he or she is on a successful path to recovery. We have an article on Drafting a Parenting Plan with Drug & Alcohol Restrictions. Click here for an example restricted parenting plan based upon domestic violence and drug problems. Our firm’s standard language for restrictions of various kinds, including domestic violence, can be found here.

Picture of a dangerous parent - an abusive alcoholic.
If one of the parties presents a serious danger to the child(ren), his or her parenting time should be limited, at least at first.

Other Parts of a Parenting Plan

The above sections primarily pertain to custodial arrangements. Washington’s parenting plans speak to much more, such as decision-making, alternative dispute resolution, and more. The example parenting plans provided in this article probably give you a good idea how to complete a parenting plan in its entirety, but you might have additional questions about the transportation arrangements options and the “Other Provisions” at the end of a parenting plan. Click the links in the preceding sentence for our firm’s articles on those two topics.

That’s it! We hope this was helpful. Our firm believes in making quality legal information available for free online. For more free articles, guides, and videos, visit our website and click the resources tab in the upper right corner.

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10 thoughts on “Example Parenting Plans | WA Divorce & Family Law”

  1. How do you deal with a parent who has violated the custody agreement by bashing you, your family, friends and even your counselor to your children and is asking 50/50 custody?

    1. Hi Barbara, while the rules of professional conduct don’t allow us to use the comment section to advise how the law applies to a person’s particular facts, we can advise the public about generalities and hypotheticals from which, hopefully, readers can determine their own answers. If a person’s ex (or soon-to-be ex) is badmouthing him or her in front of the children, it would certainly be concerning to the court. See our articles on What Can’t I Tell My Kids In a Divorce and How to Win Custody. The means of addressing that wrongdoing would depend on the situation. We have articles on adding “other” provisions to a parenting plan (including provisions that prohibit badmouthing), How to Modify Temporary Orders to add a provision of this kind or to restrict the other side’s parenting time, How to Modify a Final Parenting Plan, and what to do if the Other Party is Not Following the Parenting Plan. Hope that helps all readers in similar situations.

  2. What if the non custodial parent refuses to give you their address. So how would I go about serving them with relocation paper work? Along them not follow through with all of the thing stipulation of the parenting plan.

    1. What if the mother left with ur child cut off all communication, no address nothing I don’t even know where my son is and that was when he was 3 five years later and literally no communication at all I feel as if my son has been kidnapped

      1. And now out of the blue she making motions to take all my rights away as a father while she has hidden him from me for 5 years please ?

  3. “The Typical Parenting Plan” is horse radish. “The Typical Parenting Plan” should unequivocally be a 50/50 split unless it would be against the children’s best interests, period. The family court is nothing more than an extortion racket against fathers. I sat in on four weeks’ worth of DVPO hearings at the Tacoma courthouse, and 100% of the petitions were wives alleging violence against their husbands, and 100% of the orders were granted. A wholly broken, corrupt system.

  4. Hllo I ws incarcerated whn my parnting pln was md I signd it when my girlfriend cam to visit me in workrelease I should hve read it but signed it thinking it ws for child support. My now ex g/f do not llow me hrdly any tim to my hild I hve got to see her 5 times sinc November of last year and was not allowd to go to her birthday party this year.

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