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What types of child custody are available in Washington?

As two parents in Washington work to end their marriage, they will be asked to create a parenting plan. That plan will be the guide by which the individuals will co-parent their shared children and the agreement that binds them to provide specific support and care. Traditional notions of child custody are encompassed into the parenting plan.

For example, parents must establish where their children will live and when they will transition between the homes of the parents. This is often referred to as "physical custody" and it can be shared between two parents. If a parent does not retain the right to have their kids live with them, then they may be able to have scheduled time with their children under the parenting plan, which can be referred to as "visitation."

A parenting plan must detail more than the whereabouts of a child. It must also address who can make decisions about the child's well-being. Parents must sort out how they will decide which schools their kids' will attend, if they will participate in religious studies and, if needed, how they will be treated for medical needs. These duties can be shared between the parents or, if a court determines it to serve the children's best interests, one parent may retain these rights.

Most parents have the opportunity to work out their own parenting plans and, as long as they serve their kids' best interests, they will be approved by divorce courts. Getting help during the drafting and executing of a parenting plan is imperative to protecting the rights of parents and the interests of their children under the applicable family law in Washington.

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