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What should Washington parents know about a parenting plan?

Raising a child becomes a different proposition once parents decide to end their marriage, whether in Washington or any other state. They have to work out the details of child custody at a time when they may be in conflict and have a hard time agreeing with one another. However, once custody is determined, parents must then establish a feasible and effective parenting plan. For parents who are unfamiliar with parenting plans, the following provides some basic information.

What is a parenting plan? Also sometimes referred to as "parenting time," a parenting plan is a court-approved plan that details which parent a child will live with and the amount of time a child will spend with both parents. It also proposes how parents will make major life decisions for the child and how they will settle disagreements. Once a parenting plan is approved by the court, it becomes legally binding. This means a parent who violates the agreement can be charged with or be found in contempt of court.

Can parenting time be changed after being approved? A court can easily make minor changes if both parents agree to them. For example, changes to the length of time a parent spends with a child can be modified if the court deems that it meets the best interests of the child. However, major changes can be more difficult.

What happens to our parenting time if I want to relocate with the child? In Washington, plans that were passed on or after June 8, 2000, are required to state the conditions in which the custodial parent would move a child. The custodial parent must give the noncustodial parent written notice, who can then inform the court whether he or she will object to the move or is willing to modify the parenting plan.

Source: Washington Law Help, "Parenting Plans (court orders about child custody)," Accessed on Aug. 27, 2014

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