If you and your spouse have begun thinking about getting a divorce, your children’s future likely represents one of your greatest concerns. What kind of custody and visitation arrangement will work best for them and for the two of you?

To begin with, you should know that the terms “custody” and “visitation” do not apply in Washington. Instead, the law designates these two terms collectively as “parenting plans.”

Parenting plan inclusions

Washington law allows you and your spouse to devise your own parenting plan, assuming you can agree on its provisions. Keep in mind that the judge will need to approve your plan after (s)he determines that it serves the best interests of your children.

Whether you opt for sole or joint custody, your plan must include the following:

  • Which of you your children will live with and when
  • The way in which the two of you will make decisions regarding your children
  • The way in which the two of you will resolve future child-related issues between you

Contested custody

In the event you and your spouse cannot agree on a parenting plan, this will become a contested issue in your divorce. Ultimately the judge will decide custody issues for you and issue the court’s parenting plan. In devising this plan, the judge will consider the following:

  • Your children’s relationship with each of you and with each other
  • Any special needs that any of your children have
  • Which, if either, of you provided the majority of parenting during the marriage
  • How deeply involved your children are in their current neighborhood, respective schools, respective activities, etc.
  • You and your spouse’s respective employment situations and schedules
  • Which, if either, of you appears more likely able to provide for your children’s needs and maintain a loving and stable environment for them

Also keep in mind that Washington recognizes the right of grandparents to have visitation with their grandchildren.