Articles Tagged with parenting plan

Parenting plans should be drafted to fit the needs of the particular children whose lives (or residential schedules at least) will be governed by them.  This includes spending extra time thinking about how the child will be best served during their winter break from school and during the winter holidays.  There are many different ways the winter breaks and holidays can be scheduled within a parenting plan.  Below please find a few examples:

  1. Break Split Down the Middle.   For some families, the importance of the number of days of the break spent with either parent supersedes the importance of any winter holidays the family might celebrate.  This is also the choice of families who choose not to celebrate holidays.
  2. Break Split Down the Middle but Include Holidays.  This plan is similar to the plan described above, but also provides that the child will reside with one parent or the other for the holidays the family celebrates.  This plan can work well as it ensures nearly equal time spent with both parents, and also allows for alternating holiday schedules so both parents get an opportunity to celebrate with the children.  However, it can also mean more transitions for the children, and may be difficult in cases where the parents live far apart.

People from all walks of life have criminal records. Some people have had a DUI. Others have had convictions for assault or theft. When these people get divorced, many of them wonder how their criminal record will impact their dissolution proceedings. Unfortunately, for purposes of this blog post the answer has to be that it depends. There are many circumstances that can impact how much weight and consideration the court will give a previous violation of the law when deciding on family law issues. Here are a few ways that your criminal record may affect your family law proceedings. As with all legal issues on this blog, it is best to speak with an attorney that knows the details of your case about how your criminal record may impact your dissolution proceedings.

  1. Parenting Plan: If you have children, it becomes much more likely that the court will consider more seriously your criminal record. If your spouse is claiming that you are an alcoholic, the court will take a keen interest in your past alcohol offenses. If your spouse claims you are violent, the court will look at offenses involving violence with special interest. It likely goes without saying that criminal convictions involving children will likely be given the most attention.
  2. Restraining Orders: If your spouse is requesting a restraining order, and you have a criminal history that includes assault or other domestic violence crimes, it is likely the court will take these into consideration when deciding whether or not to grant a restraining order to your spouse.

After Halloween, Thanksgiving will be right around the corner. This holiday is included in Washington’s Parenting Plan Pattern form. Parents can choose to modify the form to schedule the holiday in a way that makes sense for their children (in rare circumstances, the court may choose to overrule the parents’ decisions). For many two-home (i.e., unmarried or separated parents) families this means the children will spend the Thanksgiving holiday with only one of their parents. And, some parents will be spending the holiday without their kids. Families choose to schedule the Thanksgiving holiday in a number of ways. Here are some of the ways two-home families choose to schedule their Thanksgiving holiday.

  1. Only the Thursday. Some parents choose to schedule the Thanksgiving holiday as just one day. The child (or children) will be schedule to reside with one parent for Thanksgiving Day and then the child will resume their normal holiday schedule. This is generally the default.
  2. Thursday through Friday. In this schedule the child is with the parent scheduled to have the child for the Thursday Thanksgiving and following Friday. This means that the child returns to the normal residential schedule for the weekend.

When parents are in a committed relationship (like marriage) they usually discuss and agree on what extracurricular activities the children participate in. Parents consider whether their household can afford the activities, whether the activities are safe, and how much say the child will have regarding whether to participate. Extracurricular activities can include everything from chess club, sports, ski bus, or boy scouts. Decisions regarding extracurricular activities (especially those on an ongoing basis) can have major impacts on the child’s schedule and the parent’s pocketbook. As you can imagine, these decisions can be especially difficult in families where the parents are living separate and apart.

Sometimes, the parenting plan and/or child support order dictate the decision making process for extracurricular activities. It might dictate how the parents split the costs of the extracurricular activities, or how many activities a child may participate at a time. However, in most cases the plan and order say little about extracurricular activities beyond apportioning the cost of such activities between the parties. This often leaves the parties with little guidance when deciding whether a child may participate in an activity. Here are a few considerations for a parent (who is not married to the child’s other parent) thinking of signing a child up for these activities:

  1. Consider the child’s residential schedule. When deciding whether to sign a child up for an activity, look at when the activity is supposed to take place, and then compare that to the child’s residential schedule. If all the meetings are on Wednesday nights, and the child is not scheduled to reside with you on Wednesday night, you will probably need the other parent on board in order for the child to participate.
  2. Consider the cost. Does the order of child support give any guidance as to how the costs should be shared, or is the parent who signs the child up solely responsible? These are important considerations if you are living on a budget. You will also want to make sure that you don’t need the other parent’s consent prior to signing the child up for an activity that you would like to share the cost of.
  3. Consider asking for agreement even if you don’t have to. Sometimes, even where the orders don’t require it, it is best to ask the child’s other parent whether they will agree to the child participating in an extracurricular activity. If a child has expressed interest to you, they may have told the other parent too, and that parent might be happy to share the burden and expense of the extracurricular. *This is obviously not advisable if there is any order restricting communication between you and the other party.

If you are considering terminating your relationship with your child’s other parent, it is probably in your best interest to speak with an attorney about how participation in extracurricular activities will be decided and afforded. If you have questions about this or any other issue, please contact us.

We live in a world where people’s careers often require them to move to find work or allow their career room to grow. We also live in a world where many families are dealing with parenting plans and raising children in two separate households. Relocation actions are what happens when these two realities intersect.

Upon receiving a notice of relocation, non-primary parents are often shocked, hurt, and confused. Below please find a few notes about the relocation process. This is by no means a substitution for legal advice or a complete summary of the laws and procedures regarding relocations in Washington.

In relocation cases, timing is very important. Most of the time, notice should be provided by the moving primary parent to the non-primary parent sixty days in advance of the proposed move. RCW 26.09.440(1)(b)(i). After receiving notice of intent to relocate, a person has only thirty days to file an objection with the court. RCW 26.09.500. The objection is made by filing a form with the court (this is not the only way to provide notice of your objection, but it is the most common and perhaps most clear objection). If you do not object within thirty days, the move will be permitted by the court.

Summer vacation has already started for many Washington children, and will be starting soon for the rest. For children of unmarried parents, this often means a change in their residential schedule. During the summer, kids may be spending more time with the non-primary residential parent at his or her home, or they may be vacationing with one or both parents. This can also mean changes in childcare and extracurricular activities.

Parenting plans can help families plan how summer break will be handled. Some families choose to have summer schedules that mimic their school year residential schedules. This is most common in families where both parents are local, and both parents work during the summer. For these families it can make the most sense to have the school year schedule continue year-round. This avoids unnecessary changes for the children and maintains frequent contact with both parents throughout the year.

Other unmarried parents have plans that schedule the children to reside the majority of the summer with a parent living far away from the child’s usual residence. This allows the children to have substantial time with the non-local parent without missing school or compromising their extracurricular schedule. It can be difficult for the child to be away from the primary residential parent. Frequent communication between the primary residential parent and the child should be encouraged.

Most parenting plans are not strictly followed all of the time. In fact, some parenting plans contain provisions for times when the parents may agree to not follow parts of the parenting plan (in which case their behavior is not a violation at all). Many times, the failure to follow the parenting plan is by agreement of both parties, and in the best interest of the kids. For example, if the child becomes ill during one parent’s residential time with the child, the parents may agree that the child should remain with that parent, rather than having to move to the other parent’s house (in compliance with the parenting plan’s residential schedule) while ill.

In most cases, and especially when done by agreement of the parties, violations of the parenting plan are never addressed by attorneys or the court. However, in circumstances where one party violates the parenting plan without the agreement of the other party, and the violations are frequent and/or serious, a parent may need to ask the court to enforce the parenting plan on their behalf. Here are some options for a parent dealing with the other parent’s noncompliance:

  1. Do nothing. As stated previously, a parent may always choose to do nothing. If the violation does not bother you or your child, you do not have to do anything. (If the parent chooses to do nothing, they do risk that they could later be found to have acquiesced to the change in the parenting plan, providing the other party a case for modification.)
  2. Seek the assistance of a lawyer who can draft a demand letter. In some cases, a firmly written letter to the other party demanding their compliance with the plan is enough to end the violations.
  3. File a motion for a modification. If you believe these violations of the parenting plan create grounds for a modification (this is an issue that should be discussed with an attorney), you may file for a modification of the parenting plan. The modification should seek to end the violation of the parenting plan.
  4. File a motion for contempt. If a motion for contempt is granted the court will have the ability to redress the violation. The court may order the violating parent to provide the other party with make-up time with the child. It may order that visitation be temporarily suspended. The court may also order the violating parent to pay the other parent’s attorney fees.

Please note, if you ever feel that you or your child’s safety is in immediate danger call the police and seek their assistance.

Many divorcing parents come into our office assuming that they either have an advantage or disadvantage in parenting plan issues because of their sex. Fathers often think that the court is going to award the mother more residential time with the children than they receive merely because they are men. Mothers sometimes assume that they won’t have to do much to show what kind of parent they are because the laws favor them in issues of parenting. In reality there is nothing within the parenting plan laws in Washington that favors one gender or the other. In fact, the laws are intentionally drafted to apply to either spouse regardless of gender.

That said, there is a reason why parents come into our office assuming that Washington laws benefit women in parenting issues. Washington laws favor the historical primary caretaker of the children. Although times are changing and fathers are becoming more involved in the lives of their children, in most families the primary caretaker of the children is still the mother. That means in most circumstances it is the mother that ends up being the primary parent.

Regardless of whether we are representing a mother or a father, we prepare to represent our clients regardless of their gender. Parents should know that it is not their gender that predicts the time they will have with their kids after a parenting plan is entered in court. Instead, it is usually based on the role each parent has played in the child’s life.

On this blog, we’ve previously discussed the ways that a parenting plan can adjust to the needs of children as they grow and change. Parenting plans can also be drafted to fit the needs of the parents. This can include work schedules. Our clients are not all 9-5 employees. Some work nights, some work swing shift, others work schedules that require them to work several days in a row and then take several days off. For unmarried parents with these types of schedules, more conventional parenting plans may not work.

Some people aren’t aware of the ways a parenting plan can be written to fit their life. For example, instead of having the kids every other weekend, plans can include provisions that adjust based on the work schedule of either or both parents (perhaps providing one parent three weekends in a row, then the other two weekends in a row). As another example, families working night or swing shifts might prefer having their residential time with their children start in the morning following their shift instead of in the evening after school.

It is our goal to draft parenting plans that fit our clients’ families. We work to ensure that we know our clients, and how their work schedules might affect their time with their kids. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss your parenting plan or other family law issue.

As the weather warms and spring gets closer, many people take time to refresh and renew. Some people do spring cleaning and get rid of items they don’t need anymore. Others hit the mall to get some new spring and summer fashions. As family law attorneys, we’d like to remind you of some other things you might want to consider (or reconsider) as the season changes.

The first two considerations specifically relate to unmarried or divorced parents with children. If you have a child that will be graduating from high school in 2014 or 2015 it might be a good idea to consult an attorney about how (and/or if) you and the child’s other parent will afford college. There are time limits on when requests for post-secondary education expenses may be filed, so you want to be sure you know when the deadline in your case is, and that you file before that. (In many cases, the deadline is the expiration of the order of child support.) If your child will be graduating in 2014, you will want to consider this issue a priority! If you are going to speak with an attorney, you will want to do so as soon as possible.

The second consideration for parents is whether they have their residential time with their child planned out for summer vacation. Many parenting plans require that dates for residential time be communicated to the other party during the spring. This can vary, and some plans require it even earlier. This is also a time you might want to consider whether a modification of your parenting plan has become necessary. It might be possible to get a modified plan in place prior to summer break.