Can the Court Suspend Parenting Time or Visitation Without Ordering Future Review Hearings?
In Michigan, when parents divorce or separate, the court must determine custody and parenting time (parenting time is the legal term for child visitation in this state). The parties may agree upon custody or parenting time or if they are not able to reach agreement through mediation, then the court must make the determination based upon the statutory best interest factors. Once the parties reach an agreement or the court makes it's decision, then the court will sign a judgment of divorce or final custody, parenting time and support order that dictates how these issues will be handled.
However, custody, parenting time and support are always modifiable, so that if there is a change of circumstances or good cause to revisit these issues, then the court may modify the previous orders. The Michigan Court of Appeals, recently decided a case where the lower court modified its previous orders. Originally the father had custody of the children and the mother had parenting time with the children. It appears neither of the parties was a model parent given that there were verified reports to Child Protective Services regarding deplorable conditions in the homes and with the children's hygiene. Eventually father must have cleaned up his act a little and filed a motion to suspend the mother's parenting time. The basis for his motion were allegations that the mother failed to exercise parenting time; professional social worker testimony that the mother was emotionally unstable and that her inconsistency and unpredictability were damaging to the children and that the children adamantly refused to spend any time with the mother, including running away from her into the woods.
The court found the above evidence convincing and suspended the mother's parenting time. The mother appealed and the appeals court affirmed the decision to suspend the parenting time, but it also held that the failure of the trial court to order periodic review hearings was tantamount to a termination of parental rights. Based upon this published opinion, It is now the law in Michigan that if a family court suspends parenting time then the court must also order periodic review hearings to determine whether circumstances have changed so that parenting time may resume. If you are faced with divorce, custody, parenting time or support issues, please do not hesitate to contact Cathy at my office, (248) 608-4123 to schedule an appointment or request an appointment through my web site.