Equal Parenting / Co-Parenting



There is a lot of confusion about this, even among family law attorneys.  In the late 1800's in most jurisdictions the father had an absolute right to child custody because the children were considered to be his property; starting in the 1900's and based upon welfare of the children, the mother was awarded presumptive custody; but for about the last 30 years society has recognized the importance of having both parents involved with raising the children.  See In re Marriage of Littlefield, 133 Wn.2d 39 (1997).  Terms such as "custodial parent" have been replaced by "residential parent", and "custody" by "visitation" — or better yet, "time".  The theory is that in a modern household with both spouses working full-time and equally contributing to household duties and parenting, why not presume that the parents share equal time with the children such that the children could have frequent and continuing contact with each parent during the week?  While most states still do not have an equal-time legal presumption, in Washington courts may order frequently changing child visitation of approximately equal time between the parents if the parents already had a history of cooperating by sharing the parenting in this manner, and are able to continue doing so.  Other suggested guidelines focus on setting visitation based upon the age bracket of the child, while still others suggest alternating weeks, or even months or years.  It is important to remember that most states, including Washington, will impose restrictions or limitations on a parents time if that parent is deemed to pose a threat to the child.