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Make a Parenting Plan

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project - CLEAR Intake Line LSC Funded

A Washington Forms Online interview. Do-it-yourself court forms and instructions on LawHelp Interactive to create a Parenting Plan proposal or order in a family law case.

Contents
What will this interview do? What forms will I get? What is a Parenting Plan? How can I get a Parenting Plan? When do I file a Parenting Plan? How does the judge decide who gets custody? Can I get a Parenting Plan in Washington State? What if I need legal help? Talk with a lawyer What do I need before I start? What does my computer need? Ready to get started?

What will this interview do?

This free program asks questions and uses your answers to complete your forms. When you finish the interview, you can save, edit, email, download or print your completed forms. You will get instructions to help with your next steps. 

Watch our How-To Video to see how it works.

What forms will I get?

  1. Instructions
  2. Parenting Plan (FL All Family 140)

And a Proof of Mailing or Hand Delivery (FL All Family 112) or Notice of Hearing (FL All Family 185), if needed.

To continue, click the Learn More tab above

What is a Parenting Plan?

A Parenting Plan is a court order that says who has the right to spend time with and make decisions for a child.  It will include:  

  • Which parent the child will live with (custody) 
  • How much time the child will spend with each parent 
  • Who will make major decisions about the child 
  • How the parents will work out major disagreements 

If there are serious safety concerns, the Parenting Plan can include restrictions (limitations) on a parent.

How can I get a Parenting Plan?

A judge will order a Parenting Plan as part of a family law case, including:  

  • Divorce
  • Legal Separation
  • Parentage (deciding who a child’s legal parents are)
  • Petition for a Parenting Plan (for unmarried parents after a court has decided parentage)
  • Change of custody (Petition to Change Parenting Plan)

Someone who is not a legal parent cannot get a Parenting Plan. 

When do I file a Parenting Plan?

You can file a Parenting Plan form at different stages of your family law case: 

  • Beginning – with your Petition or Response 
  • Middle – with a motion for temporary orders
  • End – with your final orders

You can fill out a Parenting Plan form as a proposal, an order, or an agreement.

  • Proposal – A Parenting Plan proposal tells the other parent and the judge what you want. 
  • Order – A judge signs a Parenting Plan order after making a decision at a temporary orders hearing or trial.  If the judge has already made a decision, you must fill out the Parenting Plan order to show the judge’s actual decision, even if it is different from what you asked for.
  • Agreement – If you and the other parent agree, fill out the Parenting Plan to show the agreement you made. If you both sign the Proposal and Order versions of the plan, the judge will most likely approve it.

How does the judge decide who gets custody?

In Washington, a Parenting Plan does not award "custody". Instead, it includes a "Parenting Time Schedule" that says when the children will live with each parent. If the parents do not agree on a schedule, the judge will decide one in the children's best interest.

First the judge must consider if either parent has serious problems that affect the children. (Examples: abandonment, neglect, abuse, domestic violence, sex offense, drug or alcohol abuse, emotional, physical, or other problems.)  For certain problems, the judge must limit a parent's time with the children. For other problems, the judge may set limits.

Next, the judge considers:

  1. The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child's relationship with each parent; (This is the most important factor)
  2. Any agreements between the parents;
  3. Each parent's past and potential for future performance of parenting functions, including:
    1. Maintaining a loving, stable, consistent, and nurturing relationship with the child;
    2. Attending to the daily needs of the child, such as feeding, clothing, physical care and grooming, supervision, health care, and day care, and engaging in other activities which are appropriate to the developmental level of the child and that are within the social and economic circumstances of the particular family;
    3. Attending to adequate education for the child, including remedial or other education essential to the best interests of the child;
    4. Assisting the child in developing and maintaining appropriate interpersonal relationships;
    5. Exercising appropriate judgment regarding the child's welfare, consistent with the child's developmental level and the family's social and economic circumstances; and
    6. Providing for the financial support of the child.
  4. The emotional needs and developmental level of the child;
  5. The child's relationship with siblings and with other significant adults, as well as the child's involvement with his or her physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities;
  6. The wishes of the parents and the wishes of a child who is mature enough to express reasoned and independent preferences about the parenting time schedule; and
  7. Each parent's employment schedule.

The judge can order that the parents have equal time (50/50 or close to that) if it is in the children's best interest and the parents live close enough together to make it work. 

Can I get a Parenting Plan in Washington State?

It depends. Washington may not have the authority (jurisdiction) to enter a Parenting Plan if:

  • Your child lives in a different state
  • The child has not been living in Washington for at least six months
  • Another state has already made an order about the child

Talk to a lawyer and read Which Court Can Enter Custody Orders? Questions and Answers about Jurisdiction.

What if I need legal help?

  • Before you file anything with the court, talk with a lawyer or Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) who knows family law
  • Some counties have family law facilitators who can help fill out forms or free legal clinics where you can get advice about your case. 
  • Do you live in King County? Call 211 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. They will refer you to a legal aid provider.
  • If you have low income and do not live in King County, call the CLEAR Legal Hotline at 1-888-201-1014.

To continue, click on the Get Started tab above

Talk with a lawyer

We strongly recommend you talk with a lawyer before filing a Parenting Plan. Even if you cannot afford to pay one to handle your case for you, a lawyer may advise you about important legal rights and protections for children.

Example: if you are worried about your child’s safety with the other parent because of domestic violence or substance abuse, a lawyer can help you get a Parenting Plan that limits the other parent’s time with the child, and/or requires evaluation and treatment

What do I need before I start?

It can be helpful to look at a blank Parenting Plan form to see what it covers. Think about what schedule will be best for your children. Return to this page to start the interview.  

What does my computer need?

This interview works best on a desktop computer, laptop, or large tablet. If you only have a mobile device, go to a library or other location with a desktop computer and printer. You must print your forms to file in court.

Your documents will download as .RTF files (rich text format). You can open them in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Pages, Word Pad, and other word processors. You can email your forms directly from LawHelp Interactive to yourself or someone who can print them for you.

It could take up to one hour to get through the interview. If you do not have enough time to finish, save your answers by creating a free account with LawHelp Interactive. You can create an account before you start or after you finish the interview.

Ready to get started?

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Disclaimer:  This program is designed to follow current law. It does not apply legal principles and judgment to anyone's specific circumstances.

Last Review and Update: Nov 13, 2019
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