Will a Divorce Court Order Gradual Increases in Parenting Time?
Custody is typically the primary concern for parents faced with the prospect of divorce or separation. However in Michigan, the term "custody" as lost some of its meaning because of the ascension of "parenting time" as a replacement for what most people consider physical custody. The parenting time schedule dictates with whom the children will be on any given day, as well as holidays and often will include the time and location for the parents to exchange the children as well as transportation to and from the exchange. The parents are free to deviate from the schedule if they both agree, but if one disagrees then the parties most follow the schedule or file a motion and convince the judge to change the schedule.
In some cases the parties or the court may anticipate that it would be better for the children to start off exercising more time with one parent than the other parent immediately following the divorce or separation. There might be several reasons for this such as giving the children and/or the parents some time to adjust to the new situation or allowing time for one parent to move out and settle into an acceptable residence to accommodate extended parenting time. In such cases, the parents may agree or the court may enter an order that grants one parent or the other more time at first but then gradually increases parenting time over time until they have equal parenting time with the children.
While this seems contradictory to the requirements typically associated with modifying parenting time, (for those well-versed in family law) including a change of circumstances, good cause and an analysis of the "best interest factors"; Michigan divorce courts have decided that where gradual changes to parenting time are incorporated in the original custody or parenting time order, it does not qualify as a modification or amendment of custody or parenting time. What this means is that the parents may agree to, or the court may order on its own accord, an order that allows for or requires some adjustments to future parenting time and the order will be binding and enforceable by the party that originally has less parenting time.
Family law or divorce law is deceptively complicated in Michigan. If you are faced with the prospect of divorce or separation, please do not hesitate to contact my assistant, Cathy, at 248-608-4123 to schedule an appointment or request an appointment through my web site.