Washington couples don't have to go to court to finalize their child custody agreements and parenting plans. In fact, most can be completed outside of court once both parents see eye to eye. All that's required is for a family court judge to approve of the agreement as the final step.
To get the judge's approval -- and to prevent a problem later on down the road -- parents need to draft their child custody agreements carefully.
A checklist for finalizing your child custody agreement
Just as no two families are the same, no two parenting agreements or child custody settlements will be the same either. Nevertheless, there are a few elements that parents will be remiss in not including:
- Where will your child live?
- If the child will live full-time with one parent, what is the visitation schedule that will apply to the other parent?
- How will parents organize the dropoffs and pickups of the child. For example, where will the exchanges happen and on what days? Also, what will happen if one of the parents is a no-show or is perpetually late?
- How will parents make important decisions (legal custody decisions) regarding the child's schooling, activities, religion, medical care and upbringing?
- How will parents share holidays, vacations and birthdays?
- Will the children have a plan to maintain contact with family friends, grandparents and other relatives?
- What's the plan for resolving disputes and making required changes to the parenting plan and child custody agreement at a later time?
Talk to people who have experience with child custody plans
One of the biggest issues relating to the creation of a parenting plan and child custody agreement is the fact that the parents who are creating the plan have never done it before. There are some things that you just can't learn without going through the process again and again.
Ultimately, parents can benefit from paying attention to what various professionals have to say about this process. They may also want to discuss their challenges and concerns with people who've been through divorce with children before.