What Is Parenting Time?
In a divorce case involving a minor child, the issue of custody and visitation is a central matter that requires resolution between the parties. Custody arrangements are ordered based on the court’s analysis of specific circumstances unique to each case concerning the best interests of a minor child.
What is better known as “visitation” rights in many jurisdictions, a parent who was not awarded custody of their child has rights to what is called “parenting time” under Michigan law.
When determining issues of parenting time, a court must consider the following factors listed under Michigan Compiled Laws § 722.27a(7):
- The existence of any special circumstances or needs of the child.
- Whether the child is a nursing child less than six (6) months of age, or less than one (1) year of age if the child receives substantial nutrition through nursing.
- The reasonable likelihood of abuse or neglect of the child during parenting time.
- The reasonable likelihood of abuse of a parent resulting from the exercise of parenting time.
- The inconvenience to, and burdensome impact or effect on, the child traveling for purposes of parenting time.
- Whether a parent can reasonably be expected to exercise parenting time in accordance with the court order.
- Whether the parent has frequently failed to exercise reasonable parenting time.
- The threatened or actual detention of the child with the intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent or from a third person who has legal custody. A 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.
- Any other relevant factors.
Modifying Parenting Time
After the court renders its final judgment regarding the parties’ divorce, a party can request to alter the terms of an order—such as one for child custody, alimony, or child support—in a modification. Under Michigan law, modifying an established court order after the court issues its final judgment for divorce requires proof that “proper cause” or a “change of circumstances” occurred, justifying the court in altering the terms of its order. A party seeking to modify a parenting time arrangement must prove that either of those standards applies before the court can reevaluate the child’s best interests.
For example, a party seeking to modify their parenting time arrangement may want to alter or remove certain conditions, such as drug testing, supervised visits, or counseling. In such cases, courts have applied a more flexible standard for modifying or terminating a condition that no longer serves the best interests of the child.
Proper Cause and Change of Circumstances
The standard for modifying a parenting time order involves proof by a preponderance of the evidence that either a proper cause or change of circumstances occurred since the time the court rendered its final judgment.
The terms “proper cause” or “change of circumstances” does not have a statutory definition. However, courts have held that the standard may include “normal life changes that occurred with the minor” in some instances.
To illustrate this point, consider a parenting time order that was issued when a child was in elementary school. When the child reaches high school, the parenting time order may be modified to accommodate the child’s extracurricular and social activities as a high school student. Although the “change of circumstances” involved does not exceed the ordinary changes any child would be expected to encounter, courts have held that this may be sufficient to support a parenting time modification.
The American Divorce Association for Men (ADAM) Can Help
If you are a husband or father seeking a professional opinion and voice to support your interests in a legal matter involving Michigan family law, you should contact the American Divorce Association for Men (ADAM) for legal advice. The ADAM legal team is here to listen to your side of the story and zealously advocate for your rights and the interests of your children.
Please call ADAM at (248) 327-0050 or contact us online for a free phone consultation about your legal options today.