CASS COUNTY FRIEND OF THE COURT: Domestic PPOs and parenting time orders

In Michigan, individuals can get a domestic relationship Personal Protection Order (Domestic PPO) to stop threats or violence against them by an individual he or she has or had a domestic relationship with. A domestic relationship is a relationship with a person who: (1) is your current or ex-spouse; (2) your child’s other parent; (3) someone you currently live with or used to live with; or (4) someone you are dating or have dated. 

The person seeking the PPO is referred to as the “petitioner” and the party the PPO is issued against is referred to as the “respondent” for court proceedings.  If a domestic PPO is issued, the court may prohibit the respondent from doing things such as entering the petitioner’s home or place of employment, assaulting or threatening the petitioner, calling the petitioner, or appearing in the petitioner’s sight.

When a domestic PPO is issued between parties who have a child together, this often leads to questions about how to handle parenting time.  This is especially true if the PPO prohibits the respondent from communicating with the petitioner, as that limits the parties’ ability to discuss parenting time.  Parties to a PPO who have a child(ren) together should review the terms of the PPO to see exactly what the court prohibited the respondent from doing.  Sometimes the court may indicate that nothing in the order prevents the respondent from exercising court ordered parenting time. 

The court may also order that the respondent is allowed to communicate with the petitioner specifically via text message or email about parenting time issues.  Parties need to be aware of exactly what the PPO order states.

After reviewing the PPO,  parties should review their current parenting time order.  Many parenting time and custody orders have a provision titled “Impact of Personal Protection Order” that covers what happens if a PPO is issued between the parties.  This provision usually indicates that the terms of the PPO will limit or prohibit contact between the parties during parenting times but that the custody and parenting time order has priority over any PPO in regards to custody and parenting time.  The parenting time order may direct the parties to make alternative arrangements to facilitate court ordered custody/parenting time in the event of a PPO to ensure that custody/parenting time is still allowed as ordered and the PPO is not violated.  If the parties have a history of domestic violence, their parenting time order may already have specific provisions regarding who will act as a third party for communication purposes regarding parenting time.

After reviewing the PPO and parenting time order, the parties should determine if a third party is needed to ensure compliance with their parenting time order.  If a third party is needed, unless their PPO or parenting time order states otherwise, the parties can have one third party facilitate communication about parenting time individually with each parent or each party can designate their own third party.  Whatever arrangement is decided, the third party will need to let the other parent know their contact information and that they will be acting as the third party for parenting time communication purposes.  The parties may also need to modify the locations for parenting time exchanges or who conducts parenting time exchanges if the respondent is prohibited from entering unto the petitioner’s property.

A domestic PPO does not change court ordered custody or parenting time and cannot be issued against the parent of an unemancipated child as a way to prevent a parent from exercising parenting time.  If you need your custody or parenting time order changed due to issues you are experiencing with the other party, you must file a Motion Regarding Custody and/or Parenting Time with the court separate from filing a petition for a PPO.  These forms can be found on the Cass County FOC’s website at https://casscourtsmi.org/foc-forms  or on Michigan Legal Help’s website at https://michiganlegalhelp.org If your situation requires entry of an immediate order regarding parenting time, you should speak to an attorney about options available to you.

Sarah Mathews is the Deputy Friend of the Court for Cass County. If you have questions about the FOC that you think would be helpful to address in future columns, please send them to the FOC email address:  foc@cassco.org

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