10 Things Every Divorcing Parent Should Know About Parenting Plans

10 things every divorcing parents should know about parenting plans

Going through a divorce is undoubtedly a challenging and emotional experience. When children are involved, the complexities of the process increase exponentially. As parents, it becomes our responsibility to ensure the well-being and stability of our children amidst all the change.

This is where parenting plans come into play—a vital component of navigating the post-divorce landscape.


Sabrina Layman, Family Law Attorney

Sabrina Layman, Family Law Attorney

In this exclusive interview with Sabrina Layman, she shares valuable insights on the importance of parenting plans, the key factors considered during their determination, and essential considerations for parents seeking guidance in this area of family law. With over 20 years of experience, Sabrina serves as a trusted advocate for clients navigating the complexities of divorce with children.


1. What is a parenting plan?

SL: This is one of the mandatory documents that is signed by a judicial officer if you have children with a person to whom you are no longer married or (if never married) no longer have a shared agreed situation.


2. What is the goal of a parenting plan?

SL: The goal is always based on what is in the best interests of the child(ren). A parenting plan is to facilitate the times and days that each parent has with the child(ren). It sets the ‘rules of the road’ so to speak about schedules, decision making, and other agreed behaviors such as who drives, how school is handled, what vacations and holidays look like. It does not deal with financial matters.


3. What factors are considered when determining a parenting plan?

SL: The law in Washington regarding the criteria for a final parenting plan is outlined in statute. Revised Code of Washington section 26.09.187 sets out the criteria.


The court shall make residential provisions for each child which encourage each parent to maintain a loving, stable, and nurturing relationship with the child, consistent with the child’s developmental level and the family’s social and economic circumstances. The child’s residential schedule shall be consistent with RCW 26.09.191. Where the limitations of RCW 26.09.191 are not dispositive of the child’s residential schedule, the court shall consider the following factors:

(i) The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent;

(ii) The agreements of the parties, provided they were entered into knowingly and voluntarily;

(iii) Each parent’s past and potential for future performance of parenting functions as defined in *RCW 26.09.004(3), including whether a parent has taken greater responsibility for performing parenting functions relating to the daily needs of the child;

(iv) The emotional needs and developmental level of the child;

(v) The child’s relationship with siblings and with other significant adults, as well as the child’s involvement with his or her physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities;

(vi) The wishes of the parents and the wishes of a child who is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to his or her residential schedule; and

(vii) Each parent’s employment schedule, and shall make accommodations consistent with those schedules.

Factor (i) shall be given the greatest weight.


4. What information is helpful to gather for determination of the factors?

SL: Written sworn statements from third parties that have personal knowledge are helpful to let the court know what has been going on with the children. Also grade reports if appropriate and medical records if those are relevant can be helpful.


5. Does the court consider marital misconduct to determine parenting?

SL: Not usually unless the children have been inappropriately involved in new boyfriends or girlfriends.


6. Does the court consider abuse issues?

SL: Yes, the court can consider factors that are a basis for restricting time with the children. Those factors are outlined in the statute under RCW 26.09.191 and include issues such as domestic violence, abusive use of conflict, some types of criminal convictions related to children, addiction issues of the parent, and so on. Those are complex issues that need to be discussed at length.


7. How much does it cost to fight for custody?

SL: Short answer is the cost can be quite a lot depending on the issues of the case. This is something to discuss with your attorney and plan for. Not only are there costs for the attorney but in some cases, you will need to also hire a Guardian Ad Litem, a therapist or counselor, and on occasion folks use co-parenting coaches to work with the other parent. Those costs can add up quickly.


8. Does every case need a Guardian Ad Litem?

SL: No, not every case has a Guardian Ad Litem. A Guardian Ad Litem is a court appointed investigator that is paid by the parents usually to interview the parents, the children and third parties to gather information for the court. In cases where there are a lot of competing allegations, a Guardian Ad Litem can be the ‘eyes and ears’ for the court to make a recommendation. It’s not always necessary but sometimes can be part of an overall case.


9. Can a parenting plan ever be changed?

SL: While the answer is yes, the court prefers not to have parenting plans modified. The law favors consistency so modifications can be difficult and are also mandated by factors that are outlined in the law. Those are questions that are case specific, so this is best to be discussed with your attorney.


10. Does Brewe Layman represent clients who need assistance with a parenting plan?

SL: Yes, we do. Give one of our attorneys a call to discuss your concerns.


Parenting plans are key for establishing structure, promoting the best interests of the children, and fostering healthy co-parenting relationships. By addressing schedules, decision-making, and other various aspects of parenting, these plans provide a framework for stability and consistency during and after divorce.

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