Washington Parenting Plan and Agreement Guidelines

The Washington laws about parenting plans are found in Chapter 26.09 in the Revised Code of Washington.

Here are some guidelines from the law to help you make your parenting plan.

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Parenting functions instead of custody

Washington uses the term parenting functions instead of custody.

Parenting functions refer to the authority a parent has to make decisions for and about the child and the responsibility a parent has to take care of the child.

Parenting functions include:

  • Maintaining a loving, nurturing, stable relationship with the child
  • Providing the child with food, clothes, physical care, supervision, health care, etc
  • Attending to adequte education for the child
  • Helping the child have appropriate relationships with siblings, relatives, and friends
  • Protecting the child
  • Exercising good judgment about what is best for the child
  • Providing financial support for the child
Purpose of your parenting plan

Parents who divorce or separate must make a plan that explains how they will divide and share parenting functions and continue to parent their child.

The purpose of your parenting plan is to:

  • Provide for your child’s physical care
  • Maintain your child’s emotional stability and security
  • Minimize your child’s exposure to harmful parental conflict
  • Provide for your child’s needs as he or she grows, without having to modify the plan  
  • Explaing the authority and responsibility of each parent with respect to the child
  • Help parents work out responsibilities without going to court
  • Protect the best interest of the child
Required information in your parenting plan.

Your parenting plan must have:

  • A parenting time schedule for the child
  • How the parents will share or divide the decision making authority
  • How the parents will resolve future disputes without going to court

You can have sole or mutual decision making authority in your plan. In sole decision making authority, one parent has the authority to make decisions about the child's education, health care, and religious upbringing. In mutual decision making authority, both parents make these decisions.

To explain how you and the other parent will resolve future disputes, you can have provisions about using counseling, mediation, or arbitration by a specific person or agency.

You will be expected to resolve future disputes about your plan in the way you explain rather than going to court. If a parent doesn't use the dispute resolution process, the court may award attorney's fees and financial sanctions to the other parent. If you are unhappy with the result of a dispute resolution, the court can review the process.

The dispute resolution process doesn't apply to child support or financial disputes.

You can include other provisions in your plan to help you and the other parent understand your responsibilities.

Process to make your plan a court order

You and the other parent can negotiate a plan and submit it together to the court and the court will most likely approve your plan.

If you and the other parent do not agree on your plan, the court may require you to attend mediation. In mediation you will work with a neutral third party who will help you and the other parent come to an agreement about your plan.

Mediation is not required when there is a situation of abuse or domestic violence.

If you and the other parent cannot agree on a plan after going to mediation, both parents must submit a proposed parenting plan to the court. The court will review the plans and either choose one of them to be the court order or create a new plan that you must follow.

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The top twenty cities in Washington (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, Bellevue, Everett, Spokane Valley, Federal Way, Yakima, Kent, Bellingham, Kennewick, Renton, Lakewood, Auburn, Pasco, Shoreline, Redmond, Kirkland, Richland.

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