Parenting Plans in Clark County WA

As a Divorce Lawyer, I know divorces can be one of the most emotionally draining events in a person’s life.  The court ultimately has the authority to make decisions that can affect everyone involved for the rest of their lives potentially.  And of all the things the court can decide in a divorce, one of the most important and contentious is a Parenting Plan, i.e. the document that evidences the court’s decision regarding the allocation of parenting time between the parties.  While every case is unique, litigants still must bear in mind what is known as the Local Rule” in regard to parenting time.   Specifically, the “Local Rule”[1] (0.6(i)) of the Family Court Rules of the Clark County Local Rules, located on page 7-8 of the Clark County Local Rules) states:
(i.)   Suggested Visitation Schedule.  In order to facilitate reasonable resolution of visitation disputes, the parties should consider the following guide which the court would be inclined to accept as reasonable in most cases:

The children should reside with the primary residential parent, except the children should reside with the non-residential parent pursuant to the following schedule:

  1. Weekends.  Alternating weekends from 6:00 p.m. Friday until 6:00 p.m. Sunday.
  2. Summers.  Alternate weeks during the summer, commencing the first Friday after school is out.  The primary residential parent shall have even years and the other parent shall have odd years.
  3. Winter holidays.  In odd-numbered years (whether or not the children are in school, as calculated by the local school year calendar), winter holiday time beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the day school recesses and continuing until December 24th at 8:00 p.m.; in even-numbered years, December 24th from 8:00 p.m. and continuing until noon the day before school commences.
  4. Spring holiday.  Alternating spring vacations (whether or not the children are in school, as calculated by the local school year calendar).  The non-residential parent should have the children in even-numbered years, not to interrupt the weekend schedule set forth above.
  5. Other holidays.  The children should spend Thanksgiving with the residential parent in even-numbered years.  The children should spend Thanksgiving with the nonresidential parent in odd-numbered years.  Thanksgiving should be defined as commencing at 6:00 p.m. the day school is out before Thanksgiving Day, and continuing until 6:00 p.m. the Sunday immediately following the holiday.  Monday holidays shall be spent with the parent having residential time over the preceding weekend.    The Memorial Day holiday shall be with the non-residential parent every year and the Labor Day weekend shall be with the residential parent every year.

In short what the “Local Rule” means is that in most cases the court will make a determination in which one party is the primary parent and the other party will receive visitation time that is either the same or very close to what the Local Rule states.  However, to be clear, the court does not do this in every case, because each case is different.  Some common examples of variations that I have seen include mid-week visits for the non-primary residential parent, Thursday to Sunday visitations every other week, and other things that do vary from the exact standards laid out in this rule.  However, at the same time, as the rule says, in most cases the court will find the Local Rule to be reasonable.

It is common for people to come into my office and say that they want a 50/50 parenting plan.  My response is this:  if the parties can agree to that then that will certainly happen.  However, if the case is contested (meaning that there is no agreement and a judge has to decide custody), in my experience it is unlikely that the court will order a 50/50 parenting plan. The rationale for this is typically that 50/50 parenting plans are very difficult to manage unless the parties work extremely well together, they live fairly close to each other and their work schedules are conducive to this sort of taxing arrangement, especially when young children are involved.  Again, while I can’t say it has never been done after a litigated trial, and it is certainly possible, I have heard commissioners and judges say time and again that a 50/50 parenting plan is not practical in most cases…and bear in mind the Local Rule. Now to be clear again it is possible to litigation and get a 50/50 parenting plan, but it would really have to be the right case with the right said of facts and circumstances.

The reality is that the Clark County Superior Court in most cases is going to determine a primary residential parent and the non-primary residential parent is going to get either local rule or something close to local rule in most cases.  However, again, the individual facts and circumstances may justify a different result.  Schedule an appointment with me to talk about the specific facts of your case.

If you need help establishing or enforcing a parenting plan, please contact us.

Source: 
www.clark.wa.gov/sites/default/files/dept/files/superior-court/LOCAL%20RULES%202016.pdf