LEGAL BRIEFING - Parenting plans mandatory; best ones unneeded


Dear John,

My son's ex-girlfriend won't let him see his toddler. She uses the child as a pawn to manipulate him into doing what she wants. My son wants to see his daughter, so he usually gives in to her mother's unreasonable demands. Is there anything my son can do to see his child regularly without being a slave to his ex?


Griping Granny

Dear Griping,

It is an unfortunate reality that arguing parents sometimes resort to using their children as pawns. This happens much too often when couples end relationships. The courts work hard to prevent this, but it does not stop people from trying. Meanwhile, children suffer.

When couples are together there is no need to have a document stating the terms of how the children should be raised. However, the courts now require "parenting plans" whenever there is a divorce involving minor children.

More recently, the courts have also established similar procedures that can be followed when the parties never married but have children together.

Whenever residency and visitation are in question, the court wants to know what is in the best interest of the children. The court assumes the children's parents are the best source for determining what is in the children's best interest. The parenting plan is useful in that it provides a document to refer to whenever the parents do not agree.

There are many never-married parents who successfully manage to raise a child without a parenting plan, even after their relationship has ended. Establishing a parenting plan is not required. However, in cases where there is animosity between the parents, having one is nearly essential.

Drafting a plan can be a complex task. There have been many instances of litigation lasting several years. At its core, it is a contract involving the life of a child.

Depending on the circumstances, the assistance of many professionals, social workers, counselors and medical practitioners is sought. Because of the complexity and the ramifications, consulting an experienced attorney is highly recommended during all stages of the process.

I hope your son and his ex are able to work together for the sake of the child. One principle to guide in the drafting of a parenting plan is that the best plan is one that is filed and never seen again.



John Hartzell is a practicing Walla Walla attorney. No attorney-client relationship is established via this column, which is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Any information given is to illustrate basic legal concepts and does not state how any court would decide any matter. Have question? Ask John at


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