In Michigan, a parent’s right to spend time with a child is called “parenting time.” When a parenting time dispute arises between the parents, the court must make adequate findings and conclusions in support of its parenting time decision. However, there is a split of opinion as to whether the trial court must evaluate each of the best interests factors and make findings of fact and conclusions of law in parenting time disputes.
Michigan's Child Custody Act defines the phrase best interests of the child as follows:
As used in this act, “best interests of the child” means the sum total of the following factors to be considered, evaluated, and determined by the court:
(a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
(b) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.
(c) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
(f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
(j) The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.
(k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
(l) Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.
Modifying Parenting Time
Modifications of parenting time are decided under the Child Custody Act. The Friend of the Court (“FOC”) has created forms and instructions that are available upon request to modify one’s parenting time without benefit of counsel. If there is a postjudgment parenting time dispute in an open Friend of the Court case, the FOC will conduct an evaluation appropriate to the dispute. The FOC may file also ask the court to modify a parenting time order to ensure parenting time, unless contrary to the best interests of the child.
Parenting Time Factors
In addition to the best interests factors, Michigan law sets forth nine factors that more specifically relate to the frequency, duration, and type of parenting time to be granted.
(a) The existence of any special circumstances or needs of the child.
(b) Whether the child is a nursing child less than 6 months of age, or less than 1 year of age if the child receives substantial nutrition through nursing.
(c) The reasonable likelihood of abuse or neglect of the child during parenting time.
(d) The reasonable likelihood of abuse of a parent resulting from the exercise of parenting time.
(e) The inconvenience to, and burdensome impact or effect on, the child of traveling for purposes of parenting time.
(f) Whether a parent can reasonably be expected to exercise parenting time in accordance with the court order.
(g) Whether a parent has frequently failed to exercise reasonable parenting time.
(h) The threatened or actual detention of the child with the intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent or from a third person who has legal custody. A custodial parent’s temporary residence with the child in a domestic violence shelter shall not be construed as evidence of the custodial parent’s intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent.
(i) Any other relevant factors.
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