Washington child custody rules do not favor modifying parenting plans to decrease visitation. A court may, however, modify a parenting plan if it finds, based on information that occurred after the decree or that was unknown to the court at the time, that there has been a substantial change that makes a modification necessary to serve the child’s best interests. RCW 26.09.260. Additionally, restrictions or limitations may be appropriate when certain circumstances are present. A court may, for example, preclude or limit a provision in the parenting plan if the parent’s involvement is not in the child’s best interest, and one or more specified factors are present. Those factors include neglect, long-term impairment, and withholding access to the child from the other parent. Additionally, one of the listed factors is essentially any other factor the court finds to be adverse to the child’s best interests. RCW 26.09.194. Even when a court does place limitations or restrictions on visitation, it may put something in place to allow the parent to work toward resuming regular visitation. This process may include working with a counselor or therapist to ensure that resumption of the visitation is in the child’s best interest.
A mother recently challenged a court’s restriction on her visitation on a number of grounds, including the engagement of a counselor to make recommendations on reinstating visitation. The previous parenting plan ordered the daughter to reside with her father and visit her mother every other weekend.
The mother petitioned for increased visitation when she married several years later. The father petitioned to decrease her visitation, alleging physical and emotional abuse of the daughter, domestic violence in the mother’s home, and abusive use of conflict. The trial court granted the father’s petition and suspended the mother’s visitation for 45 days.