Picture of someone learning what she should know about her parenting plan.

Your Parenting Plan – What You Should Know

Samuel K. Darling, Divorce & Business Attorney at Genesis Law Firm's headquarters in Everett, WA

by Samuel K. Darling, Everett, WA Divorce Custody Lawyer

This is the second video in our three-part series on “What You Should Know AFTER Your Divorce in Washington State.” The topic of this video: your parenting plan.  If you would prefer to read rather than watch, see below for an enhanced video transcript.

[Enhanced Video Transcript:]

Hello and welcome to the second video in our series on “What You Should Know After Your Divorce in Washington State”. The first video was on the decree. This second video is on parenting plan issues, and the third video will be on child support issues. Let’s get right into what you should know about your parenting plan.


Number one, if the opposing party is more than 15 minutes late for a child exchange, you’re usually permitted to leave the exchange location and take the child with you. It’s then the opposing party’s responsibility to catch up with you and the child wherever you’ve gone to.


The second thing you should know about the parenting plan: As a general rule, either party can have whoever they want watch the child during that person’s residential time. If the opposing party is having somebody dangerous watch the child during that person’s residential time, let your attorney know.


The third thing you should know about your parenting plan: You are required to notify the other party when you intend to relocate–in other words, when you intend to move. There is a section in your parenting plan specifically on that subject, and the rules are fairly detailed and complex. I highly encourage you to read that section of your parenting plan or our article on How to Move with the Children. Here are the ABCs, or rules of thumb, regarding relocation.

  • A, if you are relocating but within the same school district, chances are you don’t need to give formal notification to the other side. You can just send an e-mail or text with your new address.
  • B, if you have at least 45% of the residential time with your child, it is very important that you give proper notice to the opposing party if you are moving outside of the school district. If you don’t do that, the court could come down on you very hard and you could even lose residential time with your child should you move without the court’s permission.
  • C, if you receive an official notice of intent to relocate, and you do not want the child to move wherever it is the opposing party wants to take him or her, it is very important that you object using the proper forms given to the right people at the right time. If you do not do this, the opposing party is going to be allowed to relocate with the child and that could mean that you lose a lot of your residential time.
  • D, Washington Law presumes that if a parent with at least 55% of the residential time wants to relocate, that it should be allowed. If the other parent wants to stop it, he or she needs to prove that it’s against the child’s best interest, which is usually a difficult argument to make. So if you intend to object, make sure that you put in all of the research possible to show why it is that it would not be in the child’s best interest.
  • And E, if the relocation occurs and it puts a large distance between each parent’s home, usually the court will put in place what’s called a Long-Distance Parenting Plan. A Long-Distance Parenting Plan entails less frequent but longer time with the non-primary care parent. If you’d like more information on these Long-Distance Parenting Plans, we have an article on the subject.


The fourth thing you should know about your parenting plan: If the opposing party fails to follow a clear provision within it, the appropriate remedy is usually a Motion for Contempt. You can also trying calling the police but they usually won’t help you, other than to perhaps speak with the opposing party and try to convince him or her do what’s right.


Number five: There is no age at which a minor child can choose which parent he or she lives with if it’s in violation of the parenting plan. The children are required to follow the parenting plan until they reach the age of 18, at which point they are emancipated. If your child is somewhat unruly and refuses to go visit the other side, you need to do everything within your power to force the child to go spend time with the other side. Now, some courts will say that as children become close to the age of 18, that they are very difficult to control and they may cut you some slack. But there’s a strong chance that if your child does not go spend time with the other side, that you will be held in contempt of court and that could mean a significant reduction in your parenting time.


Number six: If you disagree with your ex on how to implement an unclear aspect of your parenting plan, you should implement the Dispute Resolution Provision in your parenting plan. Almost every parenting plan has one of these Dispute Resolution Provisions. If you don’t have a Dispute Resolution Provision, or if the two of you try to use it but still can’t reach a decision, then you can go to the court and the court will make the determination for you. I highly recommend that you make your best effort to reach agreement through the Dispute Resolution Process because motions for clarification are expensive. They are to be avoided if possible.


Number seven: If you and the opposing party can’t agree on something that is listed as a joint decision in your parenting plan, again, you should utilize the Dispute Resolution Process listed in your parenting plan. If you can’t reach agreement through that, then you can take it to court.


Number eight: The parenting plan can be modified or adjusted based upon a change in circumstances that is both substantial and was not in existence at the time that the parenting plan was implemented. There are many reasons why a court might chose to modify or adjust a parenting plan. It could be that one of the parents has relocated. We’ve already discussed that. It could be that the child is in danger because perhaps a parent is abusing drugs or alcohol, or physically abusing the child. Or it could be that the child is spending substantial time with the other side in deviation from the parenting plan. That brings up a good point. If you give the other side some of your parenting time, make sure that you’re getting some parenting time back in return. So instead of truly giving the other side parenting time, make sure that you’re exchanging parenting time. Otherwise, the court might reduce your parenting time to match whatever the status quo of what you two have been following.


The ninth thing you should know: Do not badmouth the other side in front of the child. If the court finds out, it will be very upset with you and you could lose parenting time.


Number 10: Try to get along with the opposing party even if he or she is constantly needling you. I realize it’s very difficult to get over the animosity that comes with a divorce, but it’s much better for the child if the two of you can amicably co-parent.


The eleventh and final point for this video: Be friendly in all of your communications with the other party, especially ones in writing. The court will often punish the party that the court sees as being the angry one and favor the party that’s comes across as being more civil. So if the other side writes you an angry e-mail, make sure that you calm down before you respond. Maybe wait 24 hours and then write back.

If you would like to view the other two videos in this series, I would encourage you to click on the Resources tab above. There, you’ll find a number of articles, videos and guides on legal topics.

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