The arrangement of visitation for a child and parent is referred to in Michigan as parenting time. A child is entitled by law to spend valuable time with each divorced parent individually. When a marriage ends and you live apart, the non-custodial parent will have limited time with his or her children.
There are many different parenting time situations. I work with mothers and fathers to structure visitation agreements that work for all involved. If an agreement cannot be reached, I will help you present your evidence in the best light to the get the result you seek. When visitation for a child is involved, ask an experienced Michigan visitation attorney for help or call me directly at 248.608.4123.
If you and your ex-spouse are able to agree on an appropriate and flexible visitation schedule, the judge will most likely approve the agreement.
When both spouses cannot agree on terms for visitation for a child, the court will make the decisions. The parenting time order will declare exactly when the child must spend time with the non-custodial parent. Parenting time orders decided by the court are made in the best interests of the child.
Quality Visitation for a Child and Parent
Parenting time is designed to foster a strong relationship between the child and both parents.
Visitation for a child and parent are to be of a frequency and length of time that will promote meaningful relationships. The type of visitation is also important, such as scheduling visits for two nights a week, alternating major holidays, every other week or weekend, and phone calls.
The court follows a default visitation schedule, established by the Friend of the Court offices. The standard parenting time varies from county to county in Michigan. The guidelines for many southeast Michigan counties is for every other weekend from Friday afternoon/evening to Sunday afternoon/evening and one non-overnight visit per week during the week.
Because no two family situations are the same, parents can negotiate visitation and the courts will order more or less time than the default.
Visitation for a child must be flexible enough to adapt to a family's unexpected events, while addressing the needs of each child for consistency, structure and growth. Parenting time also must fit special circumstances of both parents and the children, such as work hours, medical issues or the distance between each parent's homes.
When Visitation for a Child and Parent Should Not Occur
Visitation schedules are court orders, and must be followed. Yet there are times when a child refuses to go, or you simply don't want your child to go – these are not cases that justify denying visitation.
Still, families do experience situations where parenting time is not appropriate. Such cases might be
- Your child becomes very sick
- A parent is under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time visitation is scheduled
- You suspect the other parent is putting the child in danger
If there are extenuating circumstances such as inappropriate behavior, supervised visitation might be required for the parent with the problem.
If you believe that you need to change the visitation orders, what can you do?
Modifications to an Order of Visitation for a Child
It used to be that, under Michigan law, it was just as difficult to modify the orders for the visitation for a child, as it was to change the orders for custody of a child. With child custody orders, the court must protect the stability of the child's environment and prevent any detrimental changes to that environment. A great deal of proof of evidence for change is required to receive child custody modification.
I have repeatedly argued against this reasoning in the law, because child custody and visitation are two very different legal issues.
However, changing a visitation schedule has become easier in Michigan.
In December of 2010, a case from the Michigan Court of Appeals – Shade v Wright, Mich. App Docket No. 296318 (2010) – decided to relax the burden of proof to allow much more reasonable conditions.
This reflects the true purpose of meaningful parenting time. With this decision in case law, parents are able to change the visitation schedule under a more relaxed burden of proof. “Normal life changes” may now be considered when deciding modifications to parenting time.
Examples of normal life changes are:
- A child begins to take part in more social activities, sports and social pursuits as they grow older and develop new interests
- One spouse remarries
- A move to a better home with better amenities
- The employment status of a parent changes
- Very young children start to attend school
- Other typical changes that occur when a child develops and grows.
Contact a Michigan Visitation Attorney
Parenting time is just one part of a comprehensive plan for your relationship with your children.
With 14 years of service to families across southeast Michigan, visitation attorney Cameron Goulding is committed to helping you find solutions tailored to your needs regarding parenting time modifications, child visitation disputes, and negotiations.