Developing a Parenting Agreement with a Seattle Child Custody Attorney

Issues around children can be some of the most complex and emotional, because there are so many things to be decided, and after all, these are your children! I know how important my child and our relationship is to me. Because parenting is so important, when dealing with custody and parenting plan issues, you should be working with a Seattle child custody attorney you trust.

If the two of you can reach an agreement on parenting outside of court, that agreement is likely to last better over time because both of you have had a say in it and because it addresses YOUR family’s needs and issues rather than just those of a generic family.

Parenting Agreements in Washington

If you and the other parent are able to reach agreement on the custody and parenting arrangements, the court will generally accept your agreed parenting plan as long as the court feels the plan is good for the child. That includes preserving the child’s relationship with both parents to the extent possible. I did once see a court reject a parenting plan that was too open ended, as this did not provide a predictable schedule for the child and potentially could leave the child in a position of having to choose loyalties between the parents.

If the two of you are NOT able to reach agreement, then the court will need to decide the custody and parenting arrangements for you. Obviously this is not ideal, as it takes some of the decision making about your own children out of your hands. For that reason we do recommend non-litigation methods for reaching agreements, such as mediation or collaborative divorce. By finding ways to work together, even when that is difficult, rather than escalating into a fight, you increase the odds of working out a settlement on the custody issues that will benefit both parents and children far into the future. Our Seattle child custody attorneys can discuss these options with you.

How Can I Get The Other Parent To Cooperate With Me?

Parenting goes much smoother when both parents are able to work cooperatively with each other. This starts with cooperating on working out the parenting plan. To get cooperation from the other parent, you have to start by offering it yourself. Starting the case out with a declaration about the other parent’s faults, accusing them of various things to get the advantage, is not a good way to begin if you can avoid it. When you attack, the other person naturally becomes defensive, and any potential for cooperation shrivels.

Instead you might start out by letting the other parent know you hope to work out parenting arrangements cooperatively and that you value their parenting skills and want the children to be close to both of you. If you do have differences in parenting philosophies or styles, acknowledge those differences without characterizing them as right or wrong. Just make it clear that those differences are things the two of you are going to need to discuss to come up with a plan that will work best for your children. It can be helpful to recognize that the two households may be different, even have different rules, but that such differences can work best when you both support each other in your differences.

Court Appointed Investigators

When parents have having trouble agreeing on child custody parenting arrangements, the court will often appoint a parenting evaluator or Guardian ad Litem for the children (the two roles are very similar). The person appointed will perform an investigation and submit a report. The investigator may:

  • review the court records
  • talking to both parents
  • talking to people who know the parents
  • interviewing the child
  • checking with school personnel
  • have psychological testing done when appropriate.

They do not have final decision making power, but their recommendations are taken very seriously by the court. If there is a court appointed investigator appointed in your case, it is very important that you cooperate with them fully.

What is the Role of My Seattle Child Custody Attorney in These Out of Court Options?

There are several options for how you choose to proceed on working out a mutually agreeable parenting agreement. The first and simplest is where the two of you are able to sit down and come up with a plan you both like without any outside help.

The second approach is having an outside professional work with you both.  Working with a parenting specialist, divorce coach, or mediator can help a great deal in keeping the conversation positive and moving forward. Even after the divorce, having a coach or family counselor you both can turn to when difficulties arise can help keep things from getting out of hand.

In either of those processes, your attorney is generally not present at discussions. They may help you between sessions by answering questions, letting you know the issues that need to be decided, and helping you develop ideas to take back to the discussions. Once an agreement is reached, the lawyer will need to take your notes on the agreements and turn them into a formal Parenting Plan, and ultimately present it to the court.

If you choose a collaborative process, you will be working with a professional team that includes the child custody lawyers as well a coach or child specialist. Some of the parenting discussions will likely take place at full group meetings with your lawyer present, while others may involve working with just the coach or parenting specialist to work out details. The role of the lawyer in the full group meetings is to help lay out a framework of issues and work with the other team members to guide you through a process of outlining the goals and major concepts that the two of you want to build your parenting plan around.

Contact a Seattle Divorce Services Child Custody Attorney Today

When you need a Seattle child custody lawyer, schedule an appointment for an initial consultation to learn more about your options. Call 286-784-3049 today or use the form on our website to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys.