Courts do not like change, especially for children, and especially for children going through a divorce. Our statute, RCW 29.09. 184 lists the factors the court uses to determine an ordered parenting plan.
Permanent parenting plan.
(1) OBJECTIVES. The objectives of the permanent parenting plan are to:
(a) Provide for the child’s physical care;
(b) Maintain the child’s emotional stability;
(c) Provide for the child’s changing needs as the child grows and matures, in a way that minimizes the need for future modifications to the permanent parenting plan;
(d) Set forth the authority and responsibilities of each parent with respect to the child, consistent with the criteria in RCW 26.09.187
(e) Minimize the child’s exposure to harmful parental conflict;
(f) Encourage the parents, where appropriate under RCW 26.09.187
, to meet their responsibilities to their minor children through agreements in the permanent parenting plan, rather than by relying on judicial intervention; and
(g) To otherwise protect the best interests of the child consistent with RCW 26.09.002
There are many types of plans, the traditional every other weekend with a mid week dinner to 50-50 %, one week on/one week off. Young children usually are ordered to stay together and with the traditionally primary parent. Older children can have more flexible plans. It really depends on the unique situation of the family. But what is so important is to make a plan that will work until the child is 18 because 1) children do not get a voice on who they stay with and 2) parenting plans are extremely difficult to change.
These often to no work, and I frankly do not advise them except in rare circumstances where both parents really to share the child rearing tasks, get along well with each other, and live near each other. That is not “usual” in divorce.
Parenting Plan modifications are expensive and hard to achieve. The courts do not like to change their orders and there is a built in initial hearing a party must pass to even get to bring a modification case called Adequate Cause. If you want to change your plan and the other party will not agree and mediation has failed and is not an option, you have to convince a court at an initial hearing that there is a substantial change in circumstances that was not contemplated at the time of the initial order that is detrimental to child(ren). As parents you are sensitive to your child’s needs and feelings but that might not be enough to convince a court to hear your case. Often a party starts a ‘Petition to Modify a Plan’ and gets thrown at adequate cause threshold hearing. Seek counsel if you are thinking of attempting to change you parenting plan or you can end up spending a lot of time and money for nothing.