Parenting Plans and Paternity

When couples with children go through a divorce or legal separation, they must fill out a “Parenting Plan” determining custody and visitation (referred to as a “residential schedule”). The parenting plan dictates the important custody-related matters such as who the children live with, how much time they spend with each parent, who makes the important decisions about the children, and how the parents will handle any disagreements that may arise.

Child custody is one of the most important aspects of a divorce, and it is essential to have a legal professional assist you with the process. For a consultation with a family law attorney in Spokane, call David J. Crouse & Associates today: 509-624-1380.

What types of issues does a parenting plan cover?

Parenting plans apportion parental duties, lay out a detailed residential schedule for the children, give the parents a way to work through any disputes that come up in the future, and include any other parenting guidelines that are important to that particular family.

Some of the key provisions in a parenting plan include:

  • Designation of custody
  • Where the children will reside for the school year, winter vacation, school breaks, summer schedule, vacations, holidays, and special occasions
  • Transportation arrangements
  • Details about relocation of a child
  • How the parents will handle day-to-day and major decisions about the children, e.g., which parent makes decisions about religious upbringing, education, curfews, etc.
  • Dispute resolution process, i.e., counseling, mediation, and arbitration

For very young children who have yet to reach school age, you can include separate schedules on the parenting plan so that you will not have to modify it later.

For instance, you might include one residential schedule for the time period until the baby is done nursing, another for toddler through pre-k, and a third for school years. One of our attorneys at David J. Crouse & Associates would be happy to help you create a proposed schedule that would work for you and your family.

The Importance of a Good Parenting Plan

Parenting plans explain how the parents will share their responsibilities and continue to care for their children in the wake of a separation or divorce. Once the judge signs the plan, it becomes a legally binding order that both parties must abide by.

Errors and omissions on a parenting plan can result in heated — not to mention costly — disputes down the road. This is why it is so important to have a family law attorney who is knowledgeable with these particular types of orders facilitate your case.

After all, the purpose of a parenting plan is to:

  • Support your child’s emotional stability
  • Minimize his or her exposure to harmful parental disputes
  • Provide guidelines for your child’s physical care
  • Provide for the changing need of your child as he or she grows
  • Clearly define parental authority and responsibilities
  • Save the parents from having to go to court later if they have a dispute
  • Most importantly, protect your child’s best interests

What if I think that my child is in danger or neglected with the other parent?

The parenting plan also provides parents with an opportunity to request that the courts minimize the amount of time the children spend with the other parent if there is an issue of serious concern.

For example, if any of the following is a factor, the court may award sole custody to a fit parent, minimize the child’s time with the other parent, and/or mandate supervised visitation:

  • Abandonment of the child
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of the child
  • A history of domestic violence
  • Substantial neglect of parenting duties
  • “Long-term emotional or physical impairment which interferes with parenting
  • An absence or substantial impairment of emotional ties between the parent and child” [RCW § 26.09.191]
  • One parent has without access of the child from the other parent without good cause
  • “The abusive use of conflict by the parent which creates the danger of serious damage to the child’s psychological development”

Unmarried Couples: Establishing Paternity

If the parents are not married or if one party is disputing paternity, establishing or formally challenging a child’s paternity is a necessary step. This is because, unless the couple has formally established paternity, the father has no legal right to his children, and mothers cannot recover the necessary support. Washington law may also recognize parentage through the inclusion of the father on the birth certificate or the execution of a State paternity affidavit.

Formally establishing paternity is an important factor in the relationship between the father and his child; however, it does not merely have an effect on the emotional relationship. Establishing paternity has financial and legal significance as well.

It is important for an unwed father to be legally recognized as such to establish child custody and visitation rights. It is also critical in establishing child support and other benefits such as healthcare and inheritance rights.

Our attorneys have represented both mothers and fathers in paternity actions, helping establish paternity in order to resolve custody, child support, and/or visitation issues.

We understand how important it is to establish paternity, whether that be to build a stronger relationship with a child or to ensure protection against being falsely named as a father. When you work with our firm, we will help with the proceedings to establish parentage and file the necessary documents with the court.

Call a family law attorney in Spokane to discuss your parenting plan today.

For help establishing or contesting paternity, or for help with a parenting plan, the modification of plans, or any other custody-related issue, we invite you to contact our firm for a consultation. We can explain your rights and responsibilities during this process.

Call us to schedule a consultation at your convenience: 509-624-1380.

David J. Crouse & Associates