Are you in the process of filing for divorce in Michigan? If you have children from your marriage who are still minors, then it is important to learn more about how child custody works in the state. More specifically, parents should understand how Michigan law conceives of parenting time. What is parenting time, and how does it relate to child custody? How do courts make decisions about parenting time and what is in the child’s best interests?
What is Parenting Time in Michigan?
Parenting time refers to the amount of time that the parent spends with the child, during which time the parent provides caretaking functions for the child.
When parents split up, whether that means breaking up from a relationship or getting divorced, Michigan law recognizes that spending time with both parents is usually in the child’s best interests. To be clear, Michigan parenting time law believes that the parent-child relationship is extremely important, and that child custody arrangements should reflect the need for a child to spend time with both parents unless there are circumstances that make such an arrangement inappropriate. More specifically, the Michigan Parenting Time Guidelines specifies that parenting time should be determined so that it optimizes the relationship of the children with both parents.
Presumption of the Right to Parenting Time
Michigan law operates under the presumption that a child has a right to parenting time with both parents unless there is clear and convincing evidence that parenting time with one (or both) of the parents would endanger the physical, mental, or emotional health of the child.
The standard of clear and convincing evidence is a difficult one to meet. In other words, if Parent A opposed Parent B having parenting time with the child, Parent A has a very difficult evidentiary standard to meet. The standard of clear and convincing evidence requires much more than a lesser evidentiary standard such as “preponderance of the evidence.” To prove that parenting time with one of the parents would endanger the child, evidence must not only lean toward the notion that this is true—it must do more than that to provide proof.
How is Parenting Time Assigned?
Under MCL 722.27a, the court looks at the following factors in determining the what parenting time should look like:
- Child’s special needs or circumstances;
- Whether the child is young enough to be nursing;
- Reasonable likelihood of abuse or neglect during parenting time;
- Reasonable likelihood of abuse of a parent due to parenting time;
- Inconvenience to the child of traveling back and forth for parenting time;
- Whether either or both parents can adhere to the courts parenting time order;
- Whether either or both parents have previously failed to exercise reasonable parenting time;
- Either parent’s threat to keep the child from the other parent; and
- Any other reasonable factors that the court considers relevant.
None of the factors listed above are dispositive, and the factors above are not necessarily weighted equally. The court looks at each family’s situation on a case-by-case basis and looks to the factors above only as they help to determine a parenting time schedule that is in the child’s best interests.