Washington State Parenting Plans

There are five main parenting plan options in Washington for families sharing child custody. These plans are designed to help the parents and children create a comfortable living situation that works well for everyone. The five main plans are the primary, mutual custody,  controlled, infant, and long-distance plans.

Primary Plan

The primary parenting plan is the standard go-to plan and most popular decision in courts. The plan allows one parent to maintain primary custody, with the other parent obtaining custody of the child every other weekend, as well as one short visit during the week. The weekend visit usually refers to Friday evening through Sunday evening. Weekday visits are often defaulted to Wednesdays since it it the middle of the week. The weekday visit may only be a few hours, or overnight, whatever the parents agree is appropriate.  There may be adjustments for holidays. For example, one parent may get custody for Thanksgiving, so the other parent gets custody for Christmas, or the parent may get an extra visit if Mother’s Day or Father’s day falls our of their routine schedule.

Mutual Custody Plan

The mutual custody plan is less common, but becoming more popular. This plan allows both parents to share equal custody of the child. The most common way the time is split is one week at a time. One week with one parent, then a week with the other parent. This works when both parents are able to be fully committed, and live within close distance of each other. Some courts are in favor of this choice as it allows both parents to be equally involved. Other courts discourage this option because they believe the child needs more stability and may feel they do not have a set home.

Controlled Plan

The controlled parenting plan is placed when a parent is believed to be a risk to the child. A parent may be considered a risk if they pertain a history of drug use, sexual abuse, and or physical abuse. A controlled plan allows for supervised visitation only, and no overnight stays. Frequency of visitations will vary depending on the flexibility of the primary parent since they must be supervised. Revisions to the plan may be made if the parent is able to show successful recovery.

Infant Plan

The infant parenting plans are structured quite differently to meet the needs of baby. According to psychologists, it is best to keep the infant primarily with one parent. During infancy, the mother is often the primary-custody parent so that she may breastfeed. It is important to keep the child in a stable situation, meaning no over-night visits with the non-primary parent. However, to ensure that the non-primary parent is still included they are often granted more frequent visitations. They may see the child a few times per week, or even every day for a few hours at a time. As the child grows and matures the parenting plan will change as well to better fit the family needs.

Long-Distance Plan

The long-distance plan is placed when parents live too far apart to share child custody within the same week or even the same month. This option allows for the non-primary parent to have custody of the child during times of breaks in the school year. This may mean the child spends a portion of Summer and Winter break with this parent, and remains with the primary parent during the school year. This arrangement should be saved for the absolutely necessary situations because it can be difficult on both the parents and the child.

Geoffrey Purkis

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