Does Washington allow someone to make up missed parenting time?

On Behalf of | May 14, 2024 | Custody & Parenting

The division of parenting time is often the most emotional and contentious element of a Washington divorce. Typically, both parents prefer to have as much time with their children as possible. The courts generally expect that parents should cooperate with one another to act in the best interests of their children.

Once the courts approve a parenting plan that includes a specific division of parenting time, both adults should do their best to abide by that order and ensure the other parent has time with and access to their children. Occasionally, personal circumstances might necessitate adjustments to the existing parenting schedule for a family.

Does Washington require make-up parenting time when one adult does not get to see the children as scheduled?

Make-up parenting time is often necessary

Technically, state law does not outline the need to reschedule missed parenting time. Still, the precedent established in family law cases makes it clear that upholding the overall division of parenting time is a priority.

When a change in the children’s schedule or an issue with one parent affects the time that the other has with the children, it is reasonable for the adult denied time with the children to ask for a chance to reschedule their lost parenting time. However, if someone cancels or misses their scheduled parenting time due to their own choices or challenges, they do not necessarily have the right to demand make-up parenting time. They depend on the cooperation and good grace of the other adult in that scenario.

One adult consistently reducing or canceling the parenting time of the other might constitute parental or custodial interference and lead to enforcement actions in the Washington family courts. On the other hand, the failure of one parent to consistently arrive for their scheduled parenting time could also lead to either enforcement actions or a modification request.

One parent frustrated by the other’s failure to show up for the children could ask the courts to reduce the parenting time of someone who fails to show up consistently for the children. Last-minute custody changes can cause emotional turmoil for the children and can also negatively affect the career and relationships of the parent who must suddenly assume additional time with the children due to the conduct of the other parent.

Ideally, both adults working as co-parents should do their best to cooperate with one another and keep the focus on what the children need when making decisions related to parenting time. A willingness to reschedule and support the relationship of a co-parent can help establish that someone has approached co-parenting matters in good faith. With that said, requesting a modification or the enforcement of an existing custody order can be an appropriate reaction for a parent frustrated by frequent changes to an established Washington parenting plan.

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