Custody and Parenting Time
No area of family law is more contested than child custody. Oftentimes, when a skilled attorney digs deeper, the disagreement actually boils down to parenting time.
Parents may feel attacked or criticized by their former partners for how they are raising their children, and their natural inclination is to protect which can sometimes be perceived as retaliation. At the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, we’re able create a healthier approach.
We start by reassuring our clients of their roles as co-parents and clarifying their interests for their children along with their priorities as parents. Then we help them set reasonable expectations so they can better enter into an interest-based custody arrangement that is more holistic and sustainable over the long term, thus avoiding future litigation. We’ve found the collaborative approach almost always decreases the negative impact divorce has on children’s lives.
Michigan Law and Custody
The right to parent is constitutionally protected under Michigan law, but those rights don’t necessarily include custody of a child.
Legal custody involves the authority to make decisions in three primary areas of a child’s life: education, healthcare, and religion. When referring to physical custody, the court is primarily concerned with parenting time – defining where and how often a child resides with each parent. Judges make custody decisions based on the best interests of the children. They consider the 12 “best interest factors” set out in the Michigan Child Custody Act. These factors include:
- The emotional and financial relationships between parents and their children
- The quality and stability of children’s homes, schools, and community ties
- Parental fitness and character, and
- The history and relationship between the parents
One common misperception is that a successful custody case largely depends on the desires of the children. Parties may try to establish custody or modify an existing custody order based on little more than a child’s expressed wish to stay with them at the end of visitation. Yet, the reasonable preference of a child is only 1 of 12 factors the court must consider, and one the court must weigh in light of the other 11. We have seen many a case fall short on a parent’s hope that a child will “tell all’ in court about everything that is wrong with the other parent. We proceed cautiously in such scenarios.
Setting a Parenting Time Schedule That Works
Parenting time decisions are designed to promote a strong relationship between a child and each of his or her parents. The same 12 custody factors are used to establish a visitation schedule that protects the child’s right to parenting time, unless doing so would put the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health at risk. In addition, courts will consider:
- Infancy or special needs of the child
- Risk of harm or neglect to a child or a parent
- Logistical considerations like travel time or busing
- Parents’ availability for and involvement in school, religious, and extracurricular activities
- Any history of skipped visitation or parenting time denials
At the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, in addition to enforcing rights to parenting time, we help our clients identify and resolve the practical issues that might be impeding their visitation to try and craft a parenting time schedule that addresses the needs and preferences of children and parents alike.
Going Beyond “Sole Custody”
Our attorneys take an interest-based approach to the issues of custody and parenting time. When parents come to us demanding “sole custody” (a term we frequently hear), we try to work with them – and opposing parties, where possible – to understand what that term actually means to them and why they believe it is best.
Through mediation, negotiation, or litigation, we assist our clients in achieving their goals while endeavoring to preserve the co-parenting relationship for their children.
Contact us to schedule your free consultation with an experienced custody and parenting time attorney to find the ideal path to creating a sustainable custody and parenting time order that’s in the best interest of your children, while minimizing short and long-term conflict with your former partner.
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