As important as an appropriate property settlement is to any Washington State divorce, a reasonable parenting plan that sets forth a reasonable residential schedule for the child or children of the marriage is even more vital to the long-term wellbeing of everyone involved. If the parties are unable to agree on such a parenting plan, the Washington court is empowered to impose one, after considering the required statutory factors contained in RCW 26.09.187.
Seven Factors the Court Considers in Approving or Imposing Parenting Plans
Generally speaking, the court considers the following factors:
- The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent;
- The agreements of the parties, provided they were entered into knowingly and voluntarily;
- Each parent’s past and potential for future performance of parenting functions, including whether a parent has taken greater responsibility for performing parenting functions relating to the daily needs of the child;
- The emotional needs and developmental level of the child;
- The child’s relationship with siblings and with other significant adults, as well as the child’s involvement with his or her physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities;
- The wishes of the parents and the wishes of a child who is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to his or her residential schedule; and
- Each parent’s employment schedule, and shall make accommodations consistent with those schedules.
Ordinarily, the court gives the greatest weight to Factor 1.
Best Interests of the Child Are Key
In making its decision, or in examining an agreement offered by the parties, the court must make a determination that the arrangement is in the best interests of the child. In determining whether any arrangement is in the best interests of the child, the court may consider the parties’ geographic proximity to the extent necessary to ensure the ability to share performance of the parenting functions. For any child, residential provisions may contain any reasonable terms or conditions that facilitate the orderly and meaningful exercise of residential time by a parent, including but not limited to requirements of reasonable notice when residential time will not occur.
Is a “50/50” Residential Schedule Always Reasonable?
Many experts in child development indicate that a divorcing couple should not be quick to establish a “50/50” residential schedule, particularly if there is any significant level of conflict between the divorcing couple. A significant geographic distance between the parties or unusual work schedules can also make this option less than desirable. If the couple has a history of cooperation, splitting time equally may be healthy for the child or children under the right circumstances. Parents should remember that the court is concerned with the welfare of the child or children.
Skilled, Experienced Legal Counsel is a Must
If you or your spouse is contemplating a divorce, you owe it to yourself to retain skilled, caring legal counsel. Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S. has more than 30 years of combined experience providing quality legal services to individuals throughout the Pacific Northwest. Our firm’s smaller size allows us to communicate better with our clients so as to serve your needs in the most efficient, time-sensitive manner possible. If there’s a simple solution, that’s our first choice. We work closely with you to resolve matters quickly and economically. Contact us on the web or call our office at 253-272-2997.