Child custody is one of the most challenging parts of separation and divorce. Emotions are high, and it can be difficult to balance 50/50 child custody with being fair to both parents. The children’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being should always be the top priority when deciding on custody issues. The most crucial consideration is the children’s best interests when it comes down to it.
Sharing 50/50 physical custody means that each parent gets equal time with the child or children. This arrangement requires significant cooperation on the part of the parents, and most judges will not approve a 50/50 custody arrangement unless they believe it to be in the child’s best interests.
Considerations to show that a 50/50 arrangement is in the child’s best interests:
Several models have been created to implement a 50/50 shared custody schedule.
The first is a schedule with the parents alternating every two days. Suppose Mom has the children on Monday and Tuesday. With an every two-day schedule, Dad would get them on Wednesday and Thursday, and Mom would get them again on Friday and Saturday.
Although this schedule allows the parents to have the child with them throughout the week, it can get confusing for everyone involved. Frequent changes and exchanges can make establishing a routine at either house quite tricky.
Like the every two days schedule, the 2-2-3 schedule has parents alternating times with the children throughout the week. For example, Dad had them Monday and Tuesday so that Mom would have them Wednesday and Thursday, and then Dad gets them for the weekend Friday through Sunday. Next week, the schedule alternates.
Parents tend to like this schedule for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that they see their children multiple times in the same week, allowing them to be a more influential part of their lives. The 2-2-3 schedule is easier to implement than the every two days schedule, but it can still be frustrating, especially if the children are overly sensitive to change.
This and the every two days schedule has the child changing homes multiple times within one week. The frequency of the changes can cause stress or anxiety for the children. The children could feel disconnected from both households because they aren’t in either home for very long at a time. This feeling could affect other aspects of their lives—like how well they handle their work and interactions at school.
Perhaps the most manageable 50/50 custody arrangement is to alternate weeks. This is the most straightforward schedule, as the children alternate homes the same day every week, Sundays, for example. This arrangement has the children changing homes less frequently, which is often the least frustrating of the models highlighted here.
Parents who choose this model of custody arrangement will get an entire week at a time with the children. In some ways, this model provides the most normalcy for the children and themselves.
In Washington, parents are encouraged to agree upon a parenting plan. A parenting plan is sometimes referred to as a custody agreement. It defines each parent’s role in their child’s custody.
If parents agree on the parenting plan, it will be submitted to the court for approval. If the parents disagree, the case will go to trial to be decided by a judge. When this happens, each parent can submit a suggested plan for consideration.
Parents can use any format to submit their plans, including online templates. If you have a lawyer, mediator, or another professional working with you, they will assist in the creation of your parenting plan.
The parenting plan you create must include specific topics. Those include:
Your plan must include how important choices like education and non-emergency healthcare will be made for the children. Other topics can be included in the decision-making portion of the parenting plan, such as religion or which and how many extra-curricular the children can join.
Parents have three options for how to handle decision-making. One is that they can share joint decision-making responsibilities. They can split the decision-making by having one make decisions for some situations, and the other make decisions in different situations. (limit decision-making) Finally, one parent can take sole decision-making responsibility for all the major decisions.
No matter which decision-making model parents implement, they can feel free to make day-to-day decisions or decisions during an emergency when the children are in their care.
A residential schedule is a detailed plan for where the children will be and when. The two options for this are a joint residential schedule or a sole residential schedule. If you choose to go with a sole residential schedule, you should include whether there will be any visitation with the other parent or not.
The distinction between primary and nonprimary residential parents becomes important when settling child support concerns. The parent with the children most of the time is considered the primary residential parent. The other parent is the nonprimary residential parent.
You must detail the type of plan you plan to use. Explain the schedule in clear, complete sentences. Even if you use a visual calendar to plan your residential schedule, you will have to write a detailed description of your residential plan.
Parents have to detail their plan for handling disagreements in the future. Mediation, arbitration, and counseling are the common suggestions for dispute resolution. If you select one of these three options, you can also name the person you would hire for the job.
The alternative to mediation and arbitration is to take disagreements to court. Keep in mind that choosing that option will be rather costly. Of course, those who can’t resolve their disputes in mediation or arbitration will also end up in court as a last resort.
Let’s look closer at residential schedule choices. One way to divide time with the children in Washington is a 2-2-5-5 schedule. This is one form of a 50/50 parenting schedule where one parent has the children for two days, then the other has two days, and then they alternate for five days at a time.
Another common selection in Washington is a 70/30 schedule. In this model, one parent has the children every weekday, and the other has them every weekend. An 80/20 schedule is the other popular choice. In this scenario, the child is with one parent full time and then visits the other one every other day.
You must include a written description with your residential schedule of your parenting plan. The description and whatever calendar you provide must include the following details.
When you specify your holiday schedule, indicate that it overrides your regular residential schedule. Also, determine how the schedule will work for summer or other breaks from school. This portion of the plan should also discuss how holidays will affect breaks, or if they will.
If one or both of you takes vacations regularly, you should also indicate how you will handle vacation time with the children. Decide how long each parent can take a child out of town; can trips be taken when it’s the other parent’s turn to have the children based on the original schedule?
Be sure to add flexibility to your schedule to account for unexpected situations. For example, if your co-parent has suddenly fallen ill and it’s their time with the children. In the interest of keeping the children healthy, you will likely want to make accommodations for that illness.
A residential plan is a crucial part of your parenting plan. In Washington, you can choose how to set up your residential plan. You can choose to do a joint custody plan, such as a 50/50 residential plan, or you can choose to do a sole custody plan.
The courts encourage parents to design parenting plans themselves whenever possible. However, there are times when parents disagree. When that happens, the court will decide for those parents.
If the courts decide, parents have the right to submit their individual ideas for a parenting plan for consideration by the court. If you design your own plan, be as detailed as possible regarding holiday schedules and weekends, but allow flexibility for unforeseen situations.
If you need assistance crafting your parenting plan or have questions regarding the legalities of the residential plan you have in mind, contact the Aberdeen Law Firm. Their child custody lawyers are ready to help you with any questions regarding child custody in Washington.
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