Washington law uses the term “residential schedule” to describe what is commonly known as visitation. A parenting plan contains information about a family’s residential schedule. In most cases of divorce or separation that involve a child, one parent is designated the residential parent (custodial parent) and the other parent is designated the non-residential parent (noncustodial parent). This means that the child lives the majority of the time with one parent, and spends the rest of the time with the other parent. A parenting plan gives specific details about when the child lives with each parent and any terms and conditions that govern the parent-child relationship.

No matter what the structure of the residential schedule, the court also must find that a schedule is in the best interests of the child. In appropriate cases, the court may enter an equal-time residential schedule, which means that the child spends 50% of the time with each parent. This typically is not an option unless the parents are in agreement with the schedule or the parents have a significant history of shared parenting that demonstrates their ability to work together to raise their child.

Various factors influence a court’s decision as to which residential schedule is in a child’s best interests. In general, however, a court is more likely to award primary residential status to the parent who normally takes the greater responsibility for performing parental functions prior to and during the parties’ divorce, or over the prior year. Other relevant factors include the strength, nature, and stability of the relationship between the child and each parent, specific emotional and developmental needs of the child, and the wishes of the child, if he or she is sufficiently mature to express a reasonable preference.

We know how difficult and complicated divorce cases can be, especially when they involve complex issues like determining residential schedules for children. Contact Pacific Northwest Family Law today and we will show you how we can help with your Washington divorce case. Our attorneys focus their practice primarily on family law, so we are sure to have the skills that you need for proper representation in your divorce case. We are here to answer all of your questions, calm your concerns, and help you through the often difficult process of contested divorce and family law cases.