Domestic Violence in Parenting Plans

Find out how to protect your child from domestic violence:

The question comes up often: She is married or living with a man with history of domestic violence, how do I protect my child?

This is a very valid concern and the answer lies within the statute,  RCW 26.09.191.  This statute deals with restrictions in temporary and permanent parenting plans.  Specific to the above stated issue, section 2(b)(ii) in part states:  “The parent’s residential time with the child shall be limited if it is found that the parent resides with a person who has engaged in any of the following conduct: … (ii) a history of acts of domestic violence as defined in RCW 26.50.010”  As it is clear from the statute the courts shall limit the residential time of the parent who resides with a person who has a history of domestic violence.  The domestic violence referred to in the statute means any act of domestic violence in the past against anyone.

So, if your ex or the other parent of your child is residing with a person who has a history of DV, you can ask the court to reduce the other parent’s residential time with your child.  This might also allow you to modify your current parenting plan.

Modifying a permanent parenting plan is something the courts are extremely reluctant to do and there is a high threshold for a major modification.  A major modification refers to changing of the residence of the child.  That means,  if the child is residing majority of the time with the mother and the father has visitation,  changing the child’s residence to father’s home would constitute changing of the child’s residence.  This would be a major modification requiring overcoming of a very high threshold.

In the case of one of the parent’s residing with a person who has a history of DV, the limitation of the residential time with that parent might overcome the threshold.  RCW 26.09.260 requires a substantial change in circumstances for modification of a permanent parenting plan.  Marrying or residing with another adult would constitute a substantial change in circumstances if it occurred after the entry of the parenting plan or at the time it was unknown to the court.

Once the substantial change in circumstances test is met, and subsequently the limitation to the residential time with parent living with the person who has a history of DV is accomplished, the only question that remains is whether the limitation in residential time is enough to warrant a change in the residence of the child.

If the limitations are such that the residential parent’s time with the child is reduced to the point that the other parent now has more residential time with the child, then most likely the change of child’s residence is due.  With that a major modification would take place.

The other avenue is to look for a major modification in RCW 26.09.260(2)(c).  That section looks at whether the child’s present environment is detrimental to the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health.

In a major modification of a parenting plan attempt it would be wise to use arguments grounded on both of the above statutes, not just one.

If  your child’s other parent one day gets married or begins residing with an adult, you should conduct a background check on that person.  If  he has a civil or criminal DV protection order issued against him you might have good case of limiting other parent’s residential time in order to protect your child.





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