Articles Tagged with parenting plans

When parents of minor children end their relationship, there are often questions regarding who gets to keep the children’s belongings. This issue is usually addressed during mediation or litigation, and resolved in the divorce decree. When it comes to the children’s bedroom furniture, it is often ordered that the kids keep their furniture at the home they will be spending the majority of their time. For more portable items, there may not be any mention of them in the decree, so parents have to figure these issues out on their own. Parents should consider the following:

  1. For special items like teddy bears and other comfort items, it is often best to allow the child to bring the items with the child from house to house. This can make the transition easier, and give the child some consistency.
  2. For clothes and hygiene items (toothbrushes, hairbrushes, etc.) it is best to have items at both houses. This avoids the risk that the child leaves the necessary items at the other parent’s home. We’ve had clients that even have coats waiting in the car so the child doesn’t bring his or her coat from house to house. This works for some families, but is unnecessary for others, who don’t mind sharing clothes.
  3. Special gifts often present tricky situations. A parent may spend a substantial amount on a gift for a child’s birthday or other holiday, and want the exclusive right to watch the child enjoy that toy. That said, it can make the transfer to the other parent’s house difficult for the child. He or she may be really excited to play with the toy and want to bring it along. In these cases, it may be helpful to prepare the child for the fact that they will not be pemitted to bring the toy along to the other parent’s house – don’t leave it for the minute they are supposed to leave. In the alternative, it is sometimes worth it to allow the child to bring the object with them. If you are worried about getting it back, it is helpful to get written agreement from the other parent that they will send it home with the child at the end of their residential time.

Transferring from one home to another can be tough on kids. Consider your kids’ best interests when you decide how to handle their personal belongings. If you have children and are facing divorce, pleasecontact us.

As this blog has previously discussed, many family law actions require a parenting plan or residential schedule be created. As part of this plan or schedule, parents may request that the court order things in addition to the basics (i.e. outlining where the kids will reside, who has decision making authority, and who will transport the children between homes). Parents may seek to impose all sorts of restrictions on the other parent’s residential time. Parents may ask that the court to restrict who can be around the children without the other parent’s approval. They can ask the court to restrict how long the children can be with a babysitter, or who can babysit. There are parenting plans that specify who can drive the children and other details. Parenting plans may also set forth rules for when children may be introduced to the parents’ new significant others.

Many parents are happy to have the opportunity to have some input into the care the children receive at the other parent’s home. However, it is important to note, in many circumstances – especially those in which there is fairly equal residential time with each parent, and/or when there is no concern about either parents’ ability to parent – restrictions imposed on one parent will be imposed on the other parent. As an illustration, imagine that you decide to have a provision in your parenting plan that you get to approve all babysitters that care for your child for longer than three hours. This would mean that if you have something come up and need a last minute babysitter for a four-hour-appointment, you would have to get your last-minute babysitter approved by the other parent, or risk being in violation of the parenting plan.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have these additional provisions in your parenting plan; instead, it means you should think through whether you want to be required to comply with them as well. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your parenting plan/residential schedule.

As if packing your entire home into cardboard boxes, finding a new place to live and work, and saying goodbye to local friends and family aren’t enough, we have one more thing you may need to consider before moving. If you have children that you intend to also relocate, with someone whom you are not moving with, you may need to provide your kids’ other parent (and/or anyone else with legal rights to residential time with your children) with notice of your intent to relocate. (This may not be true if there is no court order providing the other person(s) with legal rights to time with the children, but there are other laws that may still affect your ability to move with your kids.)

The content and type of notice required varies based on where you intend to relocate to and whether there is a court order requiring notice.

If, based on your circumstances, notice is required pursuant to RCW 26.09.430, it should be provided no less than sixty days prior to your move. (As with most rules, there are exceptions to this rule.) If the general rule applies and sixty days’ notice is to be provided, the opposing party must file their objection within thirty days of receiving notice of your intent to relocate. If they do object, the court (unless you can settle the issue before hand) will decide whether or not you may move with your children.

Recently, in the family law community a discussion was had regarding how strictly parenting plans are followed by our clients. While the question was batted around for a while with anecdotal stories of perfect compliance and/or utter disregard of the plans, the answer was less than conclusive. That is: it depends. The level of compliance with a parenting plan seems to vary as much as the families they are drafted for.

While the question couldn’t be answered conclusively, some generalizations could be drawn from the anecdotes. From this (entirely unscientific) exercise, it became clear that what we have seen from parents is similar to what other family law practitioners are seeing. Some families follow their parenting plan to a T, while others toss it in a drawer and all but forget it ever existed. One commonality that seems to exist is that if parents got along well regarding parenting during the marriage they are more likely to be flexible and understanding with each other regarding the parenting after the divorce. Another similar observation is that parties who experienced long, contentious litigation were often less likely to be flexible regarding aspects of their parenting plans. Another shared experience, is having clients who begin as a flexible agreeable partnership, and then change to a less-agreeable, more rigid pair of individuals.

Whether you anticipate strict compliance or a laissez-faire attitude toward your plan, it is important that it be drafted in a way that you would be satisfied if strict compliance was required. Even in dissolutions where both parties anticipate flexibility and friendliness, a well drafted and reasonably specific plan is an absolute necessity (this plan can even explicitly permit flexibility). Sometimes, having a specific framework helps people maintain order and efficiency. It’s not that they won’t stray from the plan occasionally, just that when they do, they’ll have a framework to return to. Also, sometimes relationships sour (those who have been divorced know this all too well). Even if things seem copacetic during drafting, plan for the worst. Have a plan in place that you and your kids will be happy sticking too if your flexible relationship fails to remain so.

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