Published 2:13 pm Friday, November 5, 2021

The law presumes that it is in the best interest of a child to have a strong relationship with both of his or her parents.  Parenting time is a critical component to helping a child and parent maintain this relationship.  Because of this, in Michigan, the law establishes that a child has a right to parenting time with his or her 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.  If a court orders parenting time, it will order it in a manner that is reasonably calculated to promote a strong relationship between the child and the parent granted parenting time. 

Given the importance of parenting time, there are numerous things a court will look at when determining what parenting time to order for a child.  These include: (1) any impact on the child’s established custodial environment, (2) the best interest of the child using the best interest factors outlined in the Michigan Child Custody Act, and (3) parenting time factors outlined in the Michigan Child Custody Act.

The Michigan Child Custody Act provides specific parenting time factors the Court may consider when determining the frequency, duration and type of parenting time to be ordered.  These factors are:

1. The existence of any special circumstances or needs of the child.

2. 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.

3. The reasonable likelihood of abuse or neglect of the child during parenting time.

4. The reasonable likelihood of abuse of a parent resulting from the exercise of parenting time.

5. The inconvenience to, and burdensome impact or effect on, the child of traveling for purposes of parenting time.

6. Whether a parent can reasonably be expected to exercise parenting time in accordance with the court order.

7. Whether a parent has frequently failed to exercise reasonable parenting time.

8. The threatened or actual detention of the child with the intent to retain or conceal the child from the pother parent or from a third person who has legal custody.  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.

9. Any other relevant factors.

No one parenting time factor is given greater weight than another.  Every family situation is unique, and the court will look at the facts presented for the family before it to determine what parenting time is in the best interest of the child(ren).  Keeping this in mind, if you are going to ask the court to modify your parenting time order, you should consider if you have any circumstances specific to your family under the parenting time factors that it would be helpful to present evidence on to the court.  For example, your child may have to ride an hour in a car to get to parenting time.  This alone – while not something a child may enjoy – likely won’t be enough to demonstrate a burdensome impact on the child for traveling for the purpose of parenting time.  However, if your child suffers from extreme motion sickness and gets carsick often, you will want to make sure that the court is aware of this.  The court will take this information into consideration when ordering parenting time and may change the pickup and drop off location for parenting time exchanges to minimize the time the child is in the car or look at other ways to help the child with the impact of traveling for parenting time.

At the end of the day, parents know their children better than anyone else.  Taking the time to think about your family’s individual circumstances in terms of the parenting time factors will help you determine what evidence to present to the Court so it can order parenting time that is in your child’s best interest.

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