MATHEWS: Cass County Friend of the Court shares advice for co-parenting

Published 9:25 am Friday, February 4, 2022

Does the cold weather have you planning for a spring trip to a warmer location already?  If you have a parenting time order in place, there are a few things you should be aware of as you start making your spring break plans.

First, make sure you know what your current parenting time order says about who gets spring break parenting time.  Your parenting time order may specify which parent gets spring break or it may say that the parties are to follow the Cass County Parenting Time Guideline.  If the Parenting Time Guideline applies, spring break starts at 6 p.m. on the Friday that school lets out for break and ends at 6 p.m. on the day before school starts again after break in the school district where the child resides.  This is regardless of the age of the child, which means the Parenting Time Guideline section on spring break applies even if the child is not in school yet.

Under the Parenting Time Guideline, parents rotate spring break with the father having spring break parenting time in odd number years and the mother having spring break parenting time in even number years.  This means if the Parenting Time Guide applies to your circumstances, this year is the mother’s year for spring break.  If you have special plans for this spring break and it is not your year for spring break parenting time, you will need to talk to the other party to see if you can reach an agreement about changing parenting times.

Second, review your order as well as the Parenting Time Guideline to see if any special provisions apply to your spring break plans.  Your order may have requirements in regard to airfare, contact information, calls during vacations, etc.  If the Parenting Time Guideline applies, you’ll want to review its provisions on long distance transportation, contact information, clothing/special items, and telephone contact.  If you are planning a spring break trip that requires flying somewhere, the Parenting Time Guide indicates that airline rules for children traveling without an adult must be followed if a child is not traveling with an adult and that extra costs for spring break are the sole responsibility of the parent making such plans.

Additionally, the Parenting Time Guideline also requires that when a parent travels with a child of the parties outside of the state of Michigan of more than 100 miles away for a continuous period of more than 8 hours, that parent must inform the other parent of the travel plans and provide them with a basic itinerary.  A basic itinerary is considered to be information about where the minor child will be traveling to, how the child is traveling there, where the child is staying, and the approximate length of the trip.

Third, you’ll want to review what you have to pack for your child.  Besides making sure that they have weather and activity appropriate clothing, the Parenting Time Guideline indicates that items used exclusively by a child or gifted to them such as a special toy or electronic device should be transported back and forth with the child for parenting time.

Finally, even though spring break is only one-week long, if the Parenting Time Guideline applies, you’ll still need to coordinate phone contact with the other parent.  Under the Parenting Time Guideline, parents with unsupervised parenting time are entitled to two weekly phone contacts with their children.  You should work out with the other party how and when that phone contact is going to take place during your vacation and make sure that the other party the correct phone number to call if they are to initiate the call.  Keep in mind that while the Parenting Time Guideline sets the number of calls at two, you will want to consider the age of your child and whether or not your child will want to have contact with the other parent every day.  Your child may want to share their exciting spring break experiences each night with the other parent.

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.