Samuel K. Darling, Genesis Divorce & Business Attorney

by Samuel K. Darling, Genesis Family Law Lawyer

This video explains the five common types of parenting plans in Washington State. Not all custody-related orders fully conform to one of these five. But most do at least to some degree. Watching this video should help you draft or advocate for a parenting plan of your own. Watching should also help you communicate with your lawyer (if you have one) and the opposing party about what is appropriate in your case. Good luck!


[Video Transcript:] There are roughly 5 types of parenting plans in Washington State (WA), with variations thereon. This video provides simplistic explanations and examples of these 5 types. We also have (or will have) more detailed articles and videos on each. So figure out which type of parenting plan applies to your situation, and then look up our article or video on that subject.

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.”

Of course, a baseline parenting plan would state much more than the general visitation schedule. It would also contain sections on holidays, transportation, and more. You can find most of these details in our other articles and videos. If you’re interested in a baseline parenting plan, you might want to review our articles on a) a Normal Parenting Plan in Washington State, b) the Transportation Arrangements Section of a Proposed Parenting Plan, and c) a WA Parenting Plan’s ‘Other Provisions’.

Example 2: The Long-Distance Parenting Plan

Washington courts usually adopt a long-distance parenting plan when the parties live long distances from each other—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.

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.

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.

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.

If you would like to quickly locate the free articles and videos we’ve mentioned, we encourage you to visit the ‘resources’ section of our website. Here’s the web-address:

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