Parents making child custody decisions during a divorce in Spokane and other Washington communities may be interested in the most recent report of the Washington State Center for Court Research (WSCCR) concerning the way Parenting Plans allocate time between parents. A Parenting Plan is a court order that determines which parent a child will live with, how much time the child will spend with the other parent, whether one or both parents will make significant decisions about the child’s life, and how disputes about those decisions will be resolved.
Parenting Plans and Residential Schedules
With the help of their Washington family law attorneys, most parents who need a Parenting Plan come to an agreement about its terms. The court will typically approve any reasonable Parenting Plan that the parents propose. When parents cannot reach an agreement, the court will make an order that it deems to be in the child’s best interests. It makes that decision after considering evidence presented by the lawyers for each parent (and, in some cases, by a court-appointed lawyer for the child).
The standard parenting plan form includes a “residential schedule” that specifies where the children will live on each day of the year, including birthdays, holidays, and vacations. A Washington law requires “parties to dissolution matters” to file a “residential time summary report” with the clerk of court. “Dissolution matters” are court proceedings to end a marriage or a domestic partnership. The residential time summary report summarizes the contents of the residential schedule, including the amount of time the child will spend with each parent.
The WSCCR’s most recent analysis of residential time summary reports included the following findings:
- About one-half of one percent of the residential time summary reports were filed by same sex couples.
- The average report covered 1.5 children (a statistic that might be skewed by the fact that parents must file separate reports for children who are on different residential schedules).
- In nearly two-thirds of the reports, children were scheduled to spend more time with the mother than the father.
- In approximately 19% of the reports, children were scheduled to spend equal time with the mother and the father.
- As you would expect, parents with risk factors that might affect their parenting ability were typically scheduled to have less time with their children than the other parent. Chemical dependency was the most common risk factor, followed by domestic violence.
- When one parent had an attorney and the other did not, the parent with an attorney received more time with the children than the unrepresented parent.
Perhaps the most telling statistic is the last one. When a dispute exists about how much time a child should spend with each parent, representation by a Washington family law attorney makes a difference.
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