While Washington law does not deal in terms of “custody” and “visitation”, Washington Parenting Plans must designate a custodial parent so that the order can be understood in other states and for purposes of Federal Law. The designation must be made even when both parents have about the same amount of residential time. Under Federal Law, the custodial parent is entitled to tax exemptions and credits The custodial parent is the parent entitled to child support, certain tax exemptions and credits, and will be the parent whose income is used to determine things like state and federal aid.

When deciding which parent is the custodial parent, the court will look at the amount of residential time that each parent has with the children. In general, the custodial parent is the parent who has the children for the majority of the overnight parenting times.

Washington law does not dictate the number of overtime visits that either parent may have. Parents are free to split residential time equally or decide on another arrangement that works for them.

Some parents believe that a non-residential parent can only have a certain number of overnight visits per year, but this is not the case. The non-residential parent may have up to 182 overnight visits out of a possible 365.

Even when parents work out a 50/50 parenting time split, one parent must still be designated as the primary custodial parent. Since there are an odd number of days in the year, one parent must necessarily have more overnight visits than the other. This parent is usually considered the custodial parent.

Overnight visits are not the only types of parenting time that count. In some instances, a parent may care for the children during the day frequently but have few overnight visits. For example, one parent may watch the children in the afternoons while the other is at work, and then return the children to the custodial parent later that evening. When daytime parenting is significant, a court always has the option to take this time into consideration when creating a child support arrangement or parenting plan agreement.

Parents have a great deal of freedom to create a parenting plan and child support schedule that works for their children’s needs. As long as the child support schedule stays within the Washington law and the state’s guidelines, parents can choose an arrangement that works for them.

At Pacific Northwest Family Law, our attorneys take pride in helping families move forward after the end of a relationship. We help parents negotiate an agreement that will comply with Washington law and will ensure that both parents are able to meet their own financial needs.

If you are planning to get divorced or need to negotiate a child custody arrangement, Pacific Northwest Family Law can help. Find out more by contacting our office today at 509-572-3700. move forward with their lives after the end of a relationship.