Michigan Parenting Time

Michigan recognizes that in most cases it is important for a child to have a strong relationship with both parents. That is often easier when both parents live with the child. But when the parents don’t share a household because they are separated, divorced, or never married, formal arrangements need to be made for the child to spend time with each parent. Michigan courts call this parenting time. You may be accustomed to hearing parenting time referred to as “visitation.” Michigan uses the term “parenting time” because it more accurately reflects the reality that parents should not be visitors in their children’s lives.

Because Michigan believes so strongly that a child should have a strong connection with each parent, Michigan courts assert that parenting time should be “of a frequency, duration, and type reasonably calculated” to promote that strong relationship. The law says that a child has a right to parenting time with both parents unless it is proven, by clear and convincing evidence, that one parent would pose a danger to the child. “Clear and convincing” is a difficult standard to meet; a court will not deprive a child of time with a parent unless doing so is necessary for their safety. In extreme cases, supervised parenting time may be ordered so that a child can still get to see a parent in a safe environment.

Blume Law Group represents Michigan parents in establishing parenting time, navigating parenting time disputes, and in modifying parenting time orders when needed.

Initial Parenting Time Determinations in Michigan

Unlike child support, parents are free to reach an agreement on what parenting time arrangement works best for them and for their child. Parents know their schedules and their children’s needs intimately, and can often work out an arrangement that meets those needs better than a court can. So long as the court finds that the parenting time agreement is in the child’s best interests, it will approve the parents’ agreed-to plan. If parents can generally cooperate, a court could order “reasonable” parenting time, which gives parents flexibility about how and when the children will spend time with each of them. In most cases, however, it is preferable to have a specific parenting time schedule outlined in an order so that everyone can know what to expect.

Of course, sometimes parents cannot agree on how much time each of them will spend with the children, or how that time will be configured. A court will set forth a specific schedule for parenting time if either parent requests it. Many courts have standard schedules that can be used for this purpose.

When Michigan courts need to make an initial parenting time determination they take into account a number of factors. For guidance, the court turns to the twelve “best interests” custody factors in Michigan Compiled Laws 722.23, which are:

  • The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child;
  • The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any;
  • The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs;
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
  • The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes;
  • The moral fitness of the parties involved;
  • The mental and physical health of the parties involved;
  • The home, school, and community record of the child;
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference;
  • The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents. A court may not consider negatively for the purposes of this factor any reasonable action taken by a parent to protect a child or that parent from sexual assault or domestic violence by the child's other parent;
  • Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child
  • Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.

The Court will also look at these parenting time factors found in Michigan Compiled Laws 722.27a(7):

  • The existence of any special circumstances or needs of the child;
  • If the child is under one year old and is nursing;
  • The reasonable likelihood of abuse or neglect of the child during parenting time;
  • The reasonable likelihood of abuse of a parent resulting from the exercise of parenting time;
  • How inconvenient and burdensome it is for the child to travel for parenting time;
  • Whether a parent can reasonably be expected to exercise parenting time in accordance with the court order;
  • Whether a parent has frequently failed to exercise reasonable parenting time;
  • The threatened or actual detention of the child with the intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent or from a third person who has legal custody. A custodial parent's temporary residence with the child in a domestic violence shelter shall not be construed as evidence of the custodial parent's intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent;
  • Any other relevant factors.

When circumstances change after the initial parenting time order is established, there may be disputes over parenting time, and perhaps a need to modify the original order.

Enforcement and Modification of Parenting Time

Just because you have a parenting time order does not mean that the other parent will comply with it. If you need help enforcing your parenting time order (and have not opted out of Friend of the Court services), you look to the Friend of the Court for your county to assist you. Your attorney can prepare the written complaint explaining the problems that you are having with parenting time, and then represent you at a hearing on your complaint to help explain to the court the legal reason that it should grant you the relief that you request.

You may also need to modify a parenting time order. As with changing a custody order, the first step is to be able to show that there is proper cause for a change, or a change in circumstances. If the court finds a change of circumstances or proper cause, it will next consider whether the requested change would be a change in the child’s “established custodial environment,” which is “the place where over an appreciable time the child naturally looks to the custodian in that environment for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort. It is becoming more common that the minor child has an established custodial environment with both parents.”

Assuming it would not change the established custodial environment, the proposed change is evaluated by the standard from the Michigan case of Shade v. Wright. That case stated that a change in circumstances that would not be sufficient to justify a change of custody (like a child starting high school and becoming more involved in school activities), might still be enough to modify parenting time. The change must, of course, be in the best interests of the minor child. An experienced family law attorney will help you draft your motion and present the evidence supporting your proposed change in its best light.

Macomb County Parenting Time Attorney

After your separation or divorce, your time with your children is more precious than ever. At Blume Law Group, we are committed to helping you maintain a strong relationship with your children. Attorney Sean Blume has spent his entire legal career protecting the best interests of Michigan children. Blume Law Group represents parents in Michigan parenting time matters in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, and St. Clair counties. We invite you to contact our office to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to working with you.