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