Many issues arise when getting a divorce. One of the most important things will be coming up with a parenting plan. It is always extremely helpful if you are able to come up with an agreement on the terms with your partner. Of course, the most ideal outcome is if both parents are able to get along and take care of their kids equally. You will always be more content if you are able to come to a mutual agreement versus having to have the judge decide for you.
The parenting plan will outline how both parents will care for the children as well as how issues will be handled when they arise. This is very important because it will show how the children will be cared for after your separation. It will include all the details of where they will be living, the care schedule, expectations for school and extracurricular activities, transportation, sleeping arrangements, internet use, cell phone access, parent-child communication, and everything else related to their daily lives.
If you and your partner are able to come up with good terms for your parenting plan, then you do not always need to hire a lawyer to help you. If you don’t need one, then hiring a lawyer can cost you a lot of extra money and time. In some cases, you might consider discussing the terms of your plan with a mediator.
You can also use a mediator alongside both of your lawyers so that you can peacefully come to the right terms for you and your children. Although, if you do have a lawyer it will help to have them review it so you know that everything was done right and all the relevant terms will be included.
The parenting plan is simply a court document that you can find online on the WA State Court website. If you review it, you will see it is a detailed document that forces you to really think through how you want your children to be parented in terms of when and where visitation will occur, where your children will spend their weekends and breaks from school, birthdays, etc.
Coming Up with a Schedule
One of the biggest parts of your parenting plan will be coming up with a care schedule. Different factors will affect this such as your children’s ages, school schedule, where you are living, and especially the parent’s relationship with their child. Most states prefer to have both parents equally involved in caring for their children if they are able to as long as their safety is not in question. Your children deserve a loving and close relationship with each parent. You should try your best to come up with a schedule first before you go to court. You will need to decide on a parenting time rotation that will allow your children to hopefully spend equal time with each parent on a regular basis.
If you are not able to have a regular schedule with your child then you should try to set up a visitation plan or schedule long amounts of time to spend with them. You should make sure to be organized and make sure that you will be able to maintain your schedule long term. Writing everything down on a calendar will help a lot. You will want to make sure to plan for special events such as birthdays, holidays, vacations, or anytime the schedule might be interrupted. For example, if Mother’s Day falls on a day when the kids will be with their father, then you might want to plan on having them with their mother that day.
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The Financial Impact
Another big part of the parenting plan will be coming up with how all living expenses will be paid for the children. This will also come into play when you are figuring out child support with your ex. You might decide that their expenses will be split 50/50 while other things could be a different ratio of financial responsibility. To have fairness in the situation you will want to try your best to maintain shared expenses for your children, as well as possible reimbursement for expenses. Other things to include would be what their diet will be like, putting curfews in place, and visiting their extended family.
You will also have to plan to make big decisions together such as their education, religious practices, health care, and how they will be disciplined. You should have a plan in place for how and your ex will make decisions together and how you will be able to communicate with each other. If you don’t think that you and your ex will be able to peacefully make decisions together, then you should speak with your lawyer about what you will need to do in the future.
If there are extenuating circumstances with either parent, then this will have to be addressed in court. This would include if there is abuse, neglect, alcohol or drug dependence, or mental health issues within the household. Unfortunately, not all parents are fit to play a healthy role in their child’s life, and this might result in very limited visitation or one parent getting full custody of their child.
The Best Interests of The Child Standard
When writing your parenting plan, it should always focus on the best interests of your child. That’s because this is the standard the judge will consider when making a decision in your case. If you write one with the intention of punishing the other parent, then it will likely be thrown out in court, and you will have to start over. Worse, they could end up favoring the other parent when it comes to negotiating the terms of your parenting plan or child support.
Understanding Child Support in Washington
A big part of the parenting plan can also be coming up with a payment of child support. If the children reside with one parent, the majority of the time then the other parent will likely be ordered to pay support to the other parent. Your child support arrangement can be written in a separation agreement or court order. The parent who handles most of the day-to-day expenses for the children is usually entitled to receive child support from the other parent. The biological father has a legal duty to support their children financially even if they were never married or have no relationship with the mother or child; this can also hold true for any legal guardian or stepparent. If the biological father denies that he is the father of the child, then the court can order him to take a blood test.
The payment of child support usually ends when they turn 18 years old unless they have gotten married, gotten emancipation, have a disability or illness, or they are still going to school. The child might still require child support even if they have moved out but their parents’ house is still their primary residence. This can continue until they turn 22 years old or if they get a post-secondary degree.
If the parents get along with each other then they may be able to come up with a child support agreement together. They can look at the local child support guidelines to figure out how much Is likely to be ordered to pay in court. The parent who has to pay child support will have to provide all of their financial information to the court. The best way to make sure everything is fair is if both parents hire a lawyer to make sure everything is completed correctly so that it will be a fair arrangement. If you and your ex cannot agree upon terms then you should really consider hiring a lawyer. The judge will always end up deciding the final terms of your payment arrangement so if you are not happy with what your ex wants then you should search for legal help.
If child support payments are not paid then they will be enforced by the court. Every child support payment to be paid will come through the court and be deposited directly into the other parent’s bank account. The court will come after the other parent who has missed the child support payment; if they are unable to pay or have had a change in their financial situation then they will have to update them with any changes and inform them of the complete current financial status.
Other factors of their children’s lives will not be ignored such as where they are going to school, where they are living, medical care that they are receiving, and anything else related to their day-to-day lives. If one parent lives in a completely different location than the other then specific arrangements will have to be made. For example, if one parent lives in a different state, then the children may have to go live with the other parent in the summertime so they will not be pulled away from the primary school that they are attending. If you can come up with fair terms in your parenting plan then the court will be more likely to accept it. This will also play a big role in your children’s lives mentally so that they are not deprived of having a relationship with one of their parents.
When coming up with a parenting plan, always keep the best interests of your children in mind.
How The Aberdeen Law Firm Can Help with Your Parenting Plan
The Aberdeen Law Firm can help with your parenting plan in a variety of ways. We can work with you on how to come up with a parenting plan that works for you and that has a realistic shot of being accepted by the judge in your case. Call us for a consultation regarding your case in Washington.