Washington State does not use the term “custody” with the policy that the term is too possessory. The parenting plans in this State use the term “placement” rather than custody or visitation. Washington is unusual in providing for a lengthy outline for placement and times each parent has with the child/children. Other states are not as specific in providing a road map for times with children. One must remember, however, that parenting plans are not the remedy for everything between parents and children. Rather, the courts and lawyers regard them as guidelines and more of a default to be regarded if an issue arises. The parenting plan provides for expectations for events and issues arising from relocation.
Parents should continue to review their plan for changes in environment, changes in ages of children and thus needs and changes in economics requiring placement changes. Parenting plans might address issues involving unacceptable behavior such as alcohol, drugs, or domestic violence. The bottom line is that parenting plans are not written in cement and are best changed over time especially if the child or children are young; however, making a major change is often difficult unless both parents cooperate for the best interest of the child/children.
Most parenting plans provide for mediation in the event there is a dispute unless there is domestic violence or the parents do not agree to mediate. Mediation works well for parenting issues because the parties are not limited by the court evidentiary and time constraints. Mediation can occur in more than one session and permits the parents to iron out the nuances in the parenting plan without the need for hostile declarations.