This section of the judgment spells out the rights of the noncustodial parent to see the child. During the time a child is with a parent to whom parenting time has been awarded, that parent shall decide all routine matters concerning the child. Parenting time generally presents the greatest emotional problems for the parents, their children, relatives, friends and new spouses.
What are reasonable rights of parenting time?
Many judgments contain specific parenting time orders. However, judgments may state that parenting time rights are "reasonable." This allows parents great freedom in working out a comfortable parenting time program. Parenting time should change as a child matures and as the parents move to locations nearer or farther away from each other. Reasonable rights allow the parents to make these adjustments without going before the court. If you cannot agree on what constitutes reasonable rights, make an appointment with the Friend of the Court for advice or for working out a parenting time program.
Parenting time is granted in accordance with the best interests of the child. The child should have a strong relationship with both parents. If the parents agree on parenting time terms, the court will follow the parenting time terms unless the court determines on the record, by clear and convincing evidence, that the parenting time terms are not in the best interests of the child. A child shall have a right to parenting time with a parent unless it is shown on the record, by clear and convincing evidence, that it would endanger the child's physical, mental or emotional health.
In determining parenting time, the court may consider the following factors:
- Special circumstances or needs of the child.
- Whether the child is a nursing child less than 6 months of age, or less than 1 year of age if the child receives substantial nutrition through nursing.
- The likelihood of abuse during parenting time.
- The likelihood of abuse of a parent resulting from the exercise of parenting time.
- The burdensome impact of traveling for parenting time on the child.
- Whether the parent with parenting time will abide by the order.
- Whether the parent with parenting time has frequently failed to exercise parenting time.
- The threatened or actual detention of the child with the intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent.
- Any other relevant factors.
A parenting time order may contain any reasonable terms, including one or more of the following:
- Division of the responsibility for transportation.
- Division of the cost of transportation.
- Restrictions on the presence of third persons during parenting time.
- Requirements that the child be ready for parenting time at a specific time.
- Requirements about specific times for the pick up and return of the child.
- Parenting time to occur in the presence of a third party or agency.
- Requirements that a party post a bond to assure compliance with a parenting time order.
- Requirements of a reasonable notice when parenting time will not occur.
- Any other reasonable condition determined to be appropriate.
Parenting time can be changed
Parents can agree to change the parenting time schedule that has been adopted. If parents cannot agree, a parent may file a motion asking that the parenting time be modified. This motion can be brought by you or your own attorney. If you choose to file this motion yourself, you may request a motion form from the Friend of the Court office.
Vacations out of state
Either parent may take the minor child out of state for a vacation unless a court order prohibits it. Parents are urged to notify the other parent of a telephone number and the location where the minor child may be reached in case an emergency arises.
Spare the children
Parenting time is often unnecessarily traumatic for parents and children. When picking up and dropping off the child, the non-custodial parent must remember that parenting time is the only purpose for being at the home of the custodial parent. The parent is not there to "check-up" on the custodian. The marital home is no longer open to the noncustodial parent, and familiar rooms are now off limits.
Parenting time is for the parent and child
Children need a meaningful relationship with both parents. They need significant time from each of the parents when in a parent's care. Too often a parent becomes involved in a new relationship and introduces a new girlfriend or boyfriend before a child has resolved issues about the divorce.
A child should not be exposed to a casual relationship that a parent has formed. The child may develop loyalty conflicts or feel the loss of this person if the relationship ends. If you have developed a serious relationship, go slow. Introduce the children gradually to your boyfriend or girlfriend, always remembering that time and attention to your child is an utmost priority.
In accordance with MCLA 722.27b, a grandparent of a minor child may petition the court for grandparenting time if a child custody dispute with respect to that child is pending before the court or if a natural parent of an unmarried minor child is deceased. The Friend of the Court does not file such petitions. It may be necessary for the grandparents to hire an attorney to assist them in this matter. The Friend of the Court will enforce parenting time for a grandparent once an order is entered.
The Friend of the Court encourages custodians to allow grandparents parenting time, but this is generally not required by court orders.
Show up for parenting time on time
If you tell the children you are coming for parenting time, be sure to show up. The tales of children waiting all weekend for a parent who never appears are disturbingly common. Please telephone a few days ahead if there is any question about whether or not you will show up.
Both parents are to be timely about the parenting time pick up and return. The custodial parent is to have the child ready at the scheduled time and be available at the return time. The non-custodial parent should arrive within a few minutes of the agreed upon or court-ordered time for both the pick up and return. If a parenting time pick up or return time absolutely cannot be met, a parent has the obligation to telephone the other parent about the delay.
Don't use the child as a spy
A parent sometimes asks a child a lot of questions about what is going on in the other parent's home - questions about whether mom or dad has a boyfriend or girlfriend, if the new boyfriend/girlfriend is spending the night, if mom/dad asked questions about him or her. Sometimes the questions are to satisfy curiosity, but sometimes they are to hurt the other parent. Sometimes the questions are to help a parent feel better about himself or herself - that the other parent is not doing okay without the relationship.
Enlisting children to play this game complicates and confuses the relationships children have with both parents and is damaging to their emotional well being.
The list of possible sources of friction with parenting time is endless. Avoid as many of the pitfalls as possible.
- Don't arrive for parenting time with expensive presents when your support is in arrears and necessities (groceries, clothing) are scarce in the custodial parent's home.
- Don't always take the children to ball games, the circus, or fancy restaurants; do some casual things with them, too. Parents should not try to outbuy each other or buy a child's love. More important to a child is personal time in which a parent is sharing in activities, talking with the child, and providing affection and guidance.
- Don't tell the children you will have custody of them some day. Petition the court for a change of custody and do your talking in the courtroom where it counts.
- Pick up and return the children to their home on time.
- Remember to spend time with your children. Often children are left with friends or lumped together with the new wife or husband's children. Your child needs time with you.
- If you can't talk to the other parent at all, stick to a rigid schedule. Wait at the front door or in the car for the children, and have as little contact as possible with the other parent.
- Don't expect the custodial parent to let you have the children if you have been drinking or using drugs.
- If you do not have a driver's license, a relative or friend must do the driving.
- If you are the custodial parent, don't forget to supply adequate clothing for parenting time and to inform the other parent of necessary medication and possible illness.
- Michigan law requires all children under the age of 4 to be properly restrained in an approved child safety seat. Children, ages 4 through 15, must be properly restrained no matter where they are riding in a vehicle.
- Parents should speak positively to the children about the other parent, or say nothing at all. Speaking negatively about the other parent will do more harm than good.
Don't deny parenting time to get support
Support and parenting time are not dependent on each other. Do not deny parenting time even if the payer is not paying support. File a complaint for enforcement of support with the Friend of the Court. Similarly, if you are denied parenting time, continue to pay support, and file a complaint for enforcement of parenting time.
Comply with the court orders or get them changed
The following excuses by the custodial parent are not valid reasons for denying parenting time:
- The child is sick (unless the noncustodial parent is provided with the specific nature of the illness and an opportunity to see the child).
- The child had to go someplace else.
- The child is not home.
- The noncustodial parent is behind in child support.
- The child wants to stay home.
- The custodial parent does not want the child to go.
- The weather was bad.
- The child has no clothes to wear.
Friend of the Court Handbook