The courts use the “best interests of the child” standard to determine and allocate the parental responsibilities of each parent. In establishing a residential schedule for children in a parenting plan, RCW 26.09.187(3)(a) identifies the factors a trial court must consider, including:
- The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent; and
- Each parent’s past and potential for future performance of parenting functions including whether a parent has taken greater responsibility for performing parenting functions relating to the daily needs of the child.
RCW 26.09.187(3)(a) provides that the child’s residential schedule shall be consistent with RCW 26.09.191.
At trial, the trial court has wide discretion to determine the terms of a parenting plan when the parents cannot agree on the designated parenting and timesharing decisions. On appeal, parenting plan decisions are reviewed for abuse of discretion.
A trial court abuses its discretion if its decision is manifestly unreasonable or based on untenable grounds or untenable reasons. The terms of the parenting plan are determined after considering what is in the “best interest” of the children.
Attorneys for the Parenting Plan in Seattle, WA
The attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson in Seattle, WA, help our clients determine the best way to allocate the parental responsibilities of each parent to meet the needs of the children in child custody cases in the greater Seattle area.
We help our clients timely submit all information, forms, and worksheets required by statute. When appropriate, we also move for sanctions if the other side does not complete the required forms and worksheets so that the resolution of the case is not delayed.
In some cases, we ask the court to order a custody or parenting or residential evaluation, mental health evaluation, alcohol or drug evaluation, mediation, treatment, counseling investigation and/or physical examination. In other cases, we can ask the court to appoint a guardian ad litem or special advocate.
After a substantial change in circumstances, our attorneys can also help you seek a modification of a parenting plan, especially when one parent decides to relocate.
Let us help you protect the best interest of your children by making sure that the child custody determination and parenting plan works best for your family.
Our family law attorneys represent clients in divorce and paternity actions throughout King County including Seattle, North Bend, Mercer Island, Bellevue, Issaquah, Vashon Island and Maury Island. We also represent clients in family law cases in the city of Kent, WA, in the heart of the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area.
Call (206) 712-2756 today.
Restrictions on a Parent’s Residential Time
In some cases, our clients believe that the other parent is not fit to exercise time with the children without supervision from a responsible adult, usually because of an issue with domestic violence, emotional abuse, mental illness, and/or substance abuse.
In extreme cases, the court might impose restrictions under RCW 26.09.1912 on the residential time with one parent if the courts find that one parent has:
- engaged in a pattern of emotional abuse;
- has a history of domestic violence; or
- has long-term impairment from drug, alcohol, or other substance abuse that interferes with the performance of parenting functions.
RCW 26.09.191(3) restrictions “apply only where necessary to protect the child from physical, mental, or emotional harm.” The court is permitted to impose any restrictions that are reasonably calculated to prevent such a harm.
Under RCW 26.09.191(2)(a), the court shall limit a parent’s residential time. RCW 26.09.191(2)(a) states, in pertinent part:
“The parent’s residential time with the child shall be limited if it is found that the parent has engaged in any of the following conduct: …. (ii) physical, sexual, or a pattern of emotional abuse of a child; [or] (iii) a history of acts of domestic violence as defined in RCW 26.50.010(3).”
The court can put requirements on one parent’s visitation including:
- a period of having clean drug tests;
- enrollment in and compliance with a Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous sponsorship program; or
- enrolling in and actively participating in treatment for alcohol addiction with a state-certified drug/alcohol treatment provider.
RCW 26.09.191(3) authorizes a court to limit provisions of a parenting plan if a parent has a long-term impairment resulting from drug or alcohol abuse. RCW 26.09.191(3) states, in pertinent part:
A parent’s involvement or conduct may have an adverse effect on the child’s best interests, and the court may preclude or limit any provisions of the parenting plan, if any of the following factors exist:
(c) A long-term impairment resulting from drug, alcohol, or other substance abuse that interferes with the performance of parenting functions.
Jurisdiction over Children under the UCCJEA
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act 1997 (UCCJEA) is found in Chapter 26.27 RCW. This provision is the way to establish subject-matter jurisdiction for actions concerning children. In some cases, the HCCH Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980 (Hague Child Abduction Convention) might impact the case.
The UCCJEA allows jurisdiction to be established based on the state’s contacts with the child instead of “in personam” jurisdiction over the child’s parents.
In most cases, the home state must exercise jurisdiction in custody matters. The “home state” is defined in 28 U.S.C. Section 1738A (b)(4) and RCW26.27.021(7) as the state in which the child has lived with a parent or person acting as a parent since birth or for six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of the custody proceedings.
When neither state meets the home state definition, the significant connection basis found in RCW 26.27.201(1)(b) can be used to determine jurisdiction. In most cases, the court will decline to exercise jurisdiction based on the ’unjustifiable conduct’ provision in RCW 26.27.271. For example, if a parent wrongfully takes a child from the child’s original home state when such an action would improperly circumvent the intent of the jurisdictional laws.