Parenting time, or visitation, as it is commonly referred, is the amount of time each parent has with the minor children. There is a common misconception that there is a “standard” parenting time schedule of every other weekend and one night during the week. However, the parties should be flexible in determining a parenting time schedule that works around their work schedules and the amount of time they want to spend with their children. Further, parties are encouraged to divide holidays equally.
Sometimes parenting time orders simply state that the non-custodial parent has “reasonable” parenting time with the minor children. In an amicable divorce with cooperative parents, this language may be satisfactory. However, in many cases, we prefer to include a specific parenting time schedule, even if used only as a fall-back provision, in order to prevent future disagreements.
Modification of Child Custody
Once the divorce is completed, modifying a custody arrangement can be difficult in Michigan. When making an initial custody determination, the courts will weigh the “best interest” factors and award physical custody to the parent who fares better in the analysis.
However, once there is an established custodial relationship, the court must find that there is “clear and convincing” evidence that it is in the best interests of the children to change custody, which is a higher standard. Under Michigan divorce law, the custodial environment of a child is established if over an appreciable time the child naturally looks to the custodian in that environment for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort.
Regardless, if a parent believes that it would be in the best interests of the children to change custody, they must file a Motion with the court.
Modification of Parenting Time
If there has been a change of circumstances or if one party wants to have specific parenting time, they will have to file a Motion with the court. In many courts, the parties will then have a hearing with the Referee, who will issue a recommendation. If either party disagrees with the recommendation, they can file an objection and have the matter heard by the Judge.
Change of Domicile/100 Mile Rule
In Michigan, when there is joint legal custody, the primary residence of the minor child cannot be moved more than 100 miles from its current location or outside of the state without the permission of the either party or permission of the court. If the non-custodial parent refuses to give permission, the custodial parent must file a Motion and ask the court for permission to move. In making its determination, the court must consider the following factors:
a. Whether the legal residence change has the capacity to improve the quality of life for both the child and the relocating parent.
b. The degree to which each parent has complied with, and utilized his or her time under, a court order governing parenting time with the child, and whether the parent’s plan to change the child’s legal residence is inspired by that parent’s desire to defeat or frustrate the parenting time schedule.
c. The degree to which the court is satisfied that, if the court permits the legal residence change, it is possible to order a modification of the parenting time schedule and other arrangements governing the child’s schedule in a manner that can provide an adequate basis for preserving and fostering the parental relationship between the child and each parent; and whether each parent is likely to comply with the modification.
d. The extent to which the parent opposing the legal residence change is motivated by a desire to secure a financial advantage with respect to a support obligation.
e. Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.