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Making a Washington DC Custody Schedule

Tracy Bensun

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You need to know the custody laws that impact how you make a custody schedule in Washington DC if you live there. All parents who are divorced or separated must know the laws regarding custody in order to create an effective child custody schedule that will be accepted by the court. The guidelines regarding custody can be found in Chapter 9 of Title 16 in the District of Columbia Official Code. There, you can find information you need to develop a custody schedule that complies with the law and that serves your child's best interests. Chapter 16-914 is a valuable resource for parents that discusses custody matters. Let's take a look at some of definitions you need to know to make a good schedule.

  • Physical custody: This is the child's living arrangements. It includes the child's residential schedule and/or visitation schedule. Sole physical custody is where the child lives with one parent and has visitation with the other. Joint physical custody is where the child spends substantial time living with both parents.

  • Legal custody: This is the parents’ responsibility to making important decisions on behalf of the child. Sole legal custody is where one parent has sole authority to make decisions for the child. Joint legal custody is where both parents share the decision-making responsibility and/or consult each other on the most important decisions.

Your custody schedule is part of your parenting plan and it shows how both parents will share or split physical custody. You must decide if you want a sole custody schedule or a joint custody schedule. With a sole custody schedule, there is a calendar with visitation time for the non-custodial parent. With a joint custody schedule, there is a calendar that shows when each parent has the child.

Along with the basic schedule, you should include information about holidays, birthdays and vacations. You should divide parenting time for all these occasions and include it in your schedule. Your schedule should give both parents enough time with the child for the parents to give significant love, affection and contact. Your primary consideration when making a Washington DC custody schedule should be your child's best interests. Section a-3 in Chapter 16-914 has a list of factors that the court considers when looking at the child's best interests. You also need to think about these factors. They are:

  • The child's wishes regarding his/her custodian, whenever practicable;

  • The parents’ wishes regarding their child's custody;

  • The child's interaction and relationship with each parent, siblings and anyone else who may emotionally or psychologically affect the child's best interests;

  • How the child adjusts to home, school, and community;

  • The physical and mental health of everyone involved in the child's life;

  • Each parent's capacity to communicate and come to shared decisions about the child's welfare;

  • Each parent's willingness to share custody;

  • Each parent's prior involvement in the child's life;

  • The possible disruption of the child's school and social lives;

  • The geographic proximity of the parents’ homes as it relates to the practical considerations of the residential schedule;

  • The parents’ work and social schedules;

  • The ages and number of children;

  • Each parent's sincerity in their requests;

  • Each parent's ability to financially support an arrangement of joint custody;

  • The impact on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or Program on Work, Employment, and Responsibilities, and medical assistance; and

  • How the parents will benefit.

These factors need to be considered to make your schedule so it works for your child. If you incorporate these factors into your Washington DC custody schedule , there will be a better chance of the court accepting it. By focusing on your child's best interests, your child and you will benefit.


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