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Michigan Family Law Blog

What to Consider When Negotiating for Parenting Time

Posted by Cameron Goulding | Sep 22, 2017 | 0 Comments

You negotiate parenting time in Michigan during a divorce, a paternity action or a family support case. If you are going through one of these legal proceedings, you need to know what to consider when negotiating for parenting time. An experienced visitation lawyer can help.

How Michigan Courts View Parenting Time

The ultimate standard for determining the appropriate arrangement is that the parenting time must be in the best interests of the child. In Michigan, the courts will assume that having a good relationship with both parents is in the child's best interests unless you prove otherwise.

Your Options for Parenting-Time Arrangements in Michigan

Michigan gives you two choices: specific parenting time or reasonable (also called liberal) parenting time. With specific parenting time, the details of the dates, times, places, or other conditions of parenting time are set down in the order. You cannot change the details without going back to court and getting a new order from the judge.

Reasonable or liberal parenting time allows the greatest flexibility for the parent and the child because it does not include dates or times in the order. The parents can make adjustments to the parenting time schedule and conditions without the expense or inconvenience of going back to court for a new order. The downsides of a reasonable or liberal parenting time arrangement are:

  • They are hard to enforce. You cannot complain to the “friend of the court” services that the other parent violated the schedule if there is no written schedule.
  • In a high conflict case or a case in which one parent tries to dominate the other, the parents can struggle to achieve a plan that provides stability and a peaceful environment for the child.
  • Without a set schedule, it can be a challenge to make plans, whether for an evening, the weekend, or vacation.

Long Distance Parenting

You may need to think “outside the box” if the parents live far apart. Michigan considers parents who live more than 180 miles from each other as long distance parenting. In these situations, the courts urge parents to be mindful of the stress of travel on the child. Michigan courts recommend approaching the school breaks - summer, winter and spring breaks in a non-traditional manner. Transportation costs should enter the discussion. Usually, the parent who moved away will pay the travel expenses.  Since the transportation can come at great expense, Michigan courts recommend the parents put the details in writing.

Other Considerations When Negotiating Parenting Time in Michigan

Every family is unique, so the factors you should consider when developing your parenting time arrangement will depend on the facts of your case. Some of the common issues people should think about include:

  • Contacts with the child. The parents should reach an agreement on how each parent will communicate with the child when the child is with the other parent. The frequency of communications should be appropriate to the age and developmental level of the child. Options for contacts include telephone, texting, email, and video communication.
  • The age of the child. A schedule that might be appropriate with a preschooler might not work when the child starts school. The parents should respect the child's schedule and support her activities.
  • Unique issues, such as when a parent or child has a health or medical issue, when there is a Personal Protection Order, or when a parent is institutionalized or incarcerated will require the parents to be creative when crafting a schedule of parenting time.

If you are thinking about divorce, talk to divorce lawyer Cameron C. Goulding for a consultation.

About the Author

Cameron Goulding

A native of Oakland County, Michigan, family lawyer Cameron C. Goulding has been providing counseling and legal services of the highest caliber to individuals and families in Southeastern Michigan for over 24 years. Mr. Goulding grew up in Oakland County, Michigan and graduated from Birmingham G...


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