Understanding Visitation in a Washington Divorce

While Washington no longer uses the language of custody to describe parenting arrangements, parenting plans do often divide time unequally with one parent being the primary residential parent. The other parent is often referred to as having visitation rights. Your Seattle visitation lawyer can give you more information about exactly what that means.

Note: Grandparents and other relatives may be able to petition for visitation, too. 

A Seattle Visitation Lawyer Will Help with the Schedule

The reason parenting time is often unequal is that the courts tend to believe that the children’s school time should not be disrupted by going back and forth. Thus they tend to leave the children in one household for school days, but divide up the rest of the schedule. A Seattle visitation lawyer can describe a typical visitation schedule, which might be something like every other weekend, a block or blocks of time during the summer, and half of the other school breaks and holidays.

Joint Decision Making Under a Visitation Schedule

Outside of the visitation schedule, parenting plans are structured to keep both parents as involved as possible in raising their children. Normally joint decision making is mandated, which means both parents need to agree on major decisions such as school choice, medical care, etc. It can be a good idea to spend time with your Seattle visitation lawyer further defining joint decision making in more depth than the standard language in the parenting plan forms.

Alternate Parenting Arrangements

Certainly one factor that can influence a court’s willingness to consider a different kind of visitation schedule is how well the parents are able to cooperate for the good of the children. When parents are able to work well co-parenting with each other, the children will have a more stable environment and can better handle some disruptions, and what disruptions exist will be less impactful.

If you do hope to keep a good co-parenting relationship in place, you should consider using a non-litigation approach to the divorce. Every Seattle visitation lawyer in our office is trained in alternate dispute resolution methods such as mediation and collaboration. Such an approach avoids inflaming emotions and making things worse. In particular, working with a parenting specialist in the collaborative divorce process can help two parents build a foundation for future cooperation while planning together how they want to raise their children in two households.

Restricted Visitation

On the other hand, when parents are not able to work well with each other, the courts tend to find it important to keep some distance between the parents and to minimize child transfers between the parents, as those exchanges are often flash points for conflict. In severe cases the court may require the parents to exchange the children in a neutral location such as a parking lot or through a neutral third party. Your Seattle visitation lawyer can help you decide what may be appropriate in your case.

If there is a history of abusive behaviors, the court may even restrict visitation to a supervised setting. The courts tend to believe that losing contact with a parent entirely is detrimental to the child’s long term mental and emotional health. Therefore the courts prefer to order supervised visitation to ensure that the child still has a relationship with the parent, while keeping the child safe.

Call Seattle Divorce Services Today to Speak with a Seattle Visitation Attorney

Make sure to discuss custody and visitation with your Seattle visitation lawyer early in your case so you can get off on the right foot. To schedule an appointment, we can be reached through the form on our website, or you can call us at 206-784-3049.