When a parent is faced with a potential divorce, the biggest questions most parents have concern custody of the children. However, the term custody has lost some of its meaning in Michigan. Now the focus is more on what is called parenting time rather than custody.
What is the Difference Between Custody and Parenting Time?
There are two types of custody in Michigan, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody regards decision making for the children about important issues in the children's lives like medical decisions, where the children go to school and religious upbringing. In most cases, the parents are granted joint legal custody. Physical custody traditionally referred to who really has custody of the children. This had more meaning historically because in the past the courts would typically only grant the non-custodial parent time with the children every other weekend from Friday until Sunday and maybe one night per week to meet for dinner. Currently the courts are much more likely to grant the non-custodial parent more time with the children than this traditional schedule.
This has made what is referred to as "parenting time" much more important that it was and in some cases has more meaning than the custody terms. Parenting time is really the court ordered schedule that delineates which parent the children will be with during each day of the week. This could still be the traditional parenting time schedule referred to above, but more likely it will allow for a more equal amount of time for each parent. Often the courts will order the parties to share one schedule during the school year, which could allow for one or more overnights with each parent during the week and alternate weekends from Friday to Monday morning or alternating weeks with each parent. Then the court will order a summer parenting time schedule as well, which in Oakland County, Michigan is often alternating weeks with each parent. There will also be a separate schedule dealing with holidays and other school breaks.
Part of the reason for this is a change in societal norms and thinking regarding each parent's role in the family. Part of the reason is that the legislature added some additional provisions to the statutes that govern this area. One such provision is MCL 722.27, which states in relevant part: "(1) Parenting time shall be granted in accordance with the best interests of the child. It is presumed to be in the best interests of a child for the child to have a strong relationship with both of his or her parents. Except as otherwise provided in this section, parenting time shall be granted to a parent in a frequency, duration, and type reasonably calculated to promote a strong relationship between the child and the parent granted parenting time." There are many different provisions to the custody, parenting time and support statutes and those statutes have terms that are defined by case law which makes this a very confusing area of the law for the uninitiated.
Contact a Michigan Lawyer
Custody and parenting time can be extremely difficult for parents to negotiate given the emotions involved and the legal intricacies surrounding these issues. A Michigan child custody and parenting time lawyer can help relieve some of your frustration and concerns, you do not need to do this alone. Schedule a consult with our Michigan family law attorney to help you in all matters related to your divorce, custody, and support.