Parenting Plans in Spokane

Parenting plans in Spokane County and Washington State must conform to a mandatory court form. This form is often filed concurrently with the petition for dissolution and it should be properly designated as a proposed parenting plan. As its name suggests, this is a “proposal” as to what the proposing party would like to see regarding the children.

The laws that govern parenting plans in Washington are outlined in RCW 26.09.016, .181; .187; .194. These RCWs, however, do not really explain the mandatory form. The mandatory form allows the parties (and the court) to designate if the parenting plan is a proposed plan (as noted above), a temporary plan, or a final plan. The form is identical for all three designations.

A temporary parenting plan is one that is in place during the course of the dissolution and/or parenting action (by statute, at least 90 days from the filing of the petition and service).  In most family law cases, the parties will make a motion to the court for “temporary orders.” When the court hears this motion, it will review the proposed parenting plan both parents submitted along with proposed child support worksheets and financial declarations. The court will make a determination as to which parenting plan to adopt.

It is important to note that in Spokane County, the court typically fashions a new temporary plan. The court takes into account both proposals and attempts, depending on the parties’ circumstances, to provide for both of the parties’ wishes. This is particularly problematic because the court must do what is in the best interest of the children when entering a parenting determination. This is somewhat difficult because the court’s view of what is in the best interest of the children may often differ with what the parent’s believe is in the best interest of the children.

The parenting plan will outline the parties’ rights and responsibilities regarding the children. Section I of the mandatory form sets out general information regarding the children (name and ages). It is important to note that under local rules, the names of the children should be abbreviated to only their initials as the documents, once filed, will become public record.

Section 2 sets out the basis for restrictions sought by one of the parents. Typical restrictions are willful abandonment, physical, sexual or a pattern of emotional abuse of the child, documented history of acts of domestic violence (under RCW 26.50.010), etc.

Section 3 will outline the parties schedule for visitation at different times (school schedule, winter vacation, spring break, summer, holiday schedule, etc). Under this section the parties will also outline the transportation arrangements (cost, drop off and pick up times, and other specific arrangements).

Section 4 sets out any restrictions on decision making by either parent. Typically this section only applies if one of the parents has limiting factors (like domestic violence), or some other finding by the court that would inhibit that parent’s ability. It is unusual for a Spokane County court commissioner to restrict one of the parties’ decision making rights without having a strong reason to do so.

Section 5 requires the parties to outline a dispute resolution mechanism (like arbitration or mediation) should they have a dispute or something that cannot be agreed to.

Section 6 leaves space so other provisions can be added (no disparaging contact between the parents or the kids, no smoking in the house, no alcohol while visiting the kids, etc.). It is permissible to leave this section blank if there are no other provisions the parties are concerned with.

Section 7 is often the last section for the parties to fill out (there is Section 8, but often it is for the court to sign and the parties to sign after oral argument or by agreement).  This section allows the party to make a written declaration explaining his/her position. Every motion should be accompanied by a written declaration as Spokane County Family Courts will not hear oral testimony without a written declaration.

The last section is the section for the court and the parties to sign (and make it either a temporary parenting plan or a final parenting plan). The parties leave this section blank when filing a proposed plan.

For more information about parenting plans in Spokane County, please contact our law office at (509) 927-3546.

For more information about Washington family law, please see the links below:

Overview of This Area of Law
What is a Marriage? (legally speaking)
Illegal Marriages in Washington (and Spokane)
Prenuptial Agreements in Washington
Divorce: Filing, Deadlines, and Other Issues
Divorce: Temporary Orders and Motions
Parenting Plans in Spokane County
Child support in Spokane County
Spousal Support
Division of Assets in a Divorce
Emergency Orders
Third Party Actions in Spokane County