How Is Visitation Decided in the Michigan Courts?
In the state of Michigan, visitation is referred to as parenting time. It’s important to note that parenting time is not the same thing as custody. Legal custody of a child entails making legal decisions for a child, such as which schools they will attend, when, where, how they will receive medical care, and where the child will legally reside.
Parenting time is how the child spends time with each parent. This time can be determined with a set schedule of days or hours and can happen in person, virtually, by phone, or any combination of the three. If one parent has more parenting time than the other, it does not automatically mean that parent has full legal custody. The other parent can still be a joint legal or physical custodian of the child.
In Michigan, it is a child’s right to spend time with each of their parents unless a court has determined that one or both parents could harm the child physically, mentally, or emotionally.
As is the case with any child going through the court system, the child’s best interests are also the number one priority. For this reason, the court will readily accept any parenting time schedule that both parents have agreed to, as long as it is what is best for the child.
The state outlines the ways that parents can determine the best parenting time schedule for their child. It provides recommendations regarding development and emotional concerns, transportation, communication, and safety. It also provides details regarding how the age of the child impacts the best course of action.
Michigan defines the age of the child through the following categories:
- Infant: Birth to 12 months
- Toddler: 12 months to 3 years
- Young Children: 3 to 5 years
- Elementary School Age: 5 to 10 years
- Middle School Age: 10 to 14 years
- High School Age: 14 to 18 years
If the two parents cannot create a schedule, they agree that a judge will step in to create one. Generally speaking, the noncustodial parent will then receive time on alternating weekends, alternating holidays, and specified vacation times, such as summer break.
Even if the court determines the parenting time schedule, this schedule is viewed as the minimal amount of time that must be met for the noncustodial parents. In other words, if both parents agree to make arrangements for the noncustodial parent to have more parenting time, that is acceptable.
Parenting time can be reviewed and adjusted whenever either party files a motion. Common reasons for filing a motion for review of parenting time include a parent remarrying, a parent having more children, a parent wishing or needing to leave the state, or a parent wishing or needing to move more than 100 miles away.
Visitation, or parenting time, is an essential step in the custody process, and it is not set in stone. The court understands an individual’s life circumstances can change, as can the best interest of the child. When two parents cannot agree on parenting time, the court will step in to decide what is best.
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