Parenting Time in Michigan

The time each parent spends with their child is called parenting time. Sometimes the term “physical custody” is used, but it is not a statutorily defined term, so “parenting time” is preferable. Although it is common for parents to have equal parenting time, it is more important to focus on the quality of time versus amount of time.

When you and the other parent can work together, you can make arrangements that work best for your family considering work, school, and extra-curricular activity schedules. The age of each child and distance between parents’ homes should also be considered, along with other particular facts applicable to your family. Michigan courts will generally approve an agreed-upon parenting time schedule unless the judge believes the schedule is not in the best interests of the child.

Parenting time can be a challenging issue, especially if you and your co-parent both want more time with the children. If you become entrenched in your respective positions, it becomes hard to reach a resolution that works for everyone. Fortunately, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes such as mediation and Collaborative practice are available to help you get “unstuck” and identify a parenting time arrangement that works for everyone.

How Michigan Courts Decide Parenting Time

Each judge is different and judicial discretion is broadly granted when determining parenting time. The judge is required to analyze many “best interest factors” and “parenting time factors” that are statutorily defined and interpreted by a plethora of Michigan case law.

Your Judgment of Divorce must address parenting time if you have minor children. Decisions about parenting time cannot be left to figure out later. If you and your co-parent cannot agree on parenting time while your case is ongoing, the court can issue a temporary order regarding parenting time, which will remain in place until it is modified, or until you have a divorce judgment or final order in your case.

Modifying or Enforcing Parenting Time Orders

Especially if your children are very young when parenting time is first established, circumstances may change such that you need your parenting time order to be modified. You and your co-parent can agree to change your parenting time arrangement and the court can sign off on your agreement, making it a new order. If you and your co-parent cannot agree on a change, the person who wants the change can petition the court if legally required prerequisites are met. The court may modify the order if the change in circumstances warrants.

Do not stop complying with an existing parenting time order. If the other parent is not paying child support, that is not a legal basis to deny parenting time. If you feel there is an urgent and compelling reason to deny parenting time, contact your family law attorney.

Parents may try to live relatively close to each other after a divorce or breakup to make parenting time easier on the children. As time goes on, one or both parents may need to move for a job, new spouse, or other reasons. Neither parent may move over 100 miles away from where the child lived at the beginning of the case, or outside the state of Michigan without court approval. Get a court order signed by a judge before making any such move. Do not wait until the last minute, as orders approving a move, particularly if contested, take time to process and decide. Make sure you know details regarding where you will live and work and where the children will attend school before asking your lawyer to file a motion to move away.

Parenting Coordinators in Michigan

If you and your co-parent are having ongoing trouble communicating and working together to make decisions for your children’s well-being, the court may appoint a parenting coordinator if you and your co-parent are willing. The parenting coordinator can help you resolve parenting disputes as they arise, rather than resorting to taking the other parent to court.

The parenting coordinator’s specific powers are defined by statute. Usually, parents consult the parenting coordinator as needed and share the cost equally. The help of a parenting coordinator is often less expensive and more private than going to court repeatedly, and you get the help you need when you need it. Working with a parenting coordinator can also help you learn more effective techniques for communicating about the children with your co-parent.

Alternative Dispute Resolutions for Parents

Nichols, Sacks, Slank, Sendelbach, Buiteweg & Solomon offers clients a range of alternative dispute resolution options for Michigan parenting time matters, including mediation, negotiation, Collaborative practice, and arbitration. We will help families find parenting time arrangements that work for them and help co-parents to negotiate with each other respectfully and effectively.

Our experienced family law attorneys are also available to serve families as parenting coordinators, helping to resolve issues promptly and avoid costly litigation. Whether you need to establish, modify, or enforce parenting time, we invite you to contact us to schedule a consultation.