I have seen more sun in the last few weeks than I’ve seen for about five months, which is a reminder that summer is coming faster than we think. In the family law world, this also means that plenty of parents are gearing up for their often extended summer parenting time.
Naturally, there is a statute in Michigan that provides the court with factors to look at “when determining the frequency, duration, and type of parenting time to be granted.” MCL 722.27a(6)(a-i). The first five factors will be examined in this article and the next four in May.
The first factor is “[t]he existence of any special circumstances or needs of the child.” This can apply when your child has a physical or mental disability which requires frequent therapy, hospitalizations, doctor appointments, etc. that would make it difficult for parents to have equal parenting time or parenting time during the week. Most parents are fortunate enough not to have this factor apply, but it certainly does come into play when your child has special needs.
“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,” is the second factor. This one really irritates my male clientele when their children are babies because many believe that their ex should be required to pump her breast milk and give it to the father to use during parenting time. Often the father’s belief is that if this were required, and he was provided with all of the milk the baby needed, nothing would prevent him from having equal parenting time with the infant. However, the courts will still consider the fact that only mom can provide this type of nutrition and therefore the child has to be physically present in her care more often than dad’s.
The third factor is “[t]he reasonable likelihood of abuse or neglect of the child during parenting time.” Clearly if there is a realistic chance that the child will be harmed while in the care of a parent, parenting time needs to be limited, supervised or all together suspended. Past instances and evidence of abuse, including photos, police reports, valid protective services claims and the like are often used to show that this factor is relevant to a particular case.
Factor four ties into three – “[t]he reasonable likelihood of abuse of a parent resulting from the exercise of parenting time.” If there was domestic violence in the parents’ relationship, and they are frequently swapping the kids for parenting time, it stands to reason that increasing contact with each other in turn increases the possibility that domestic violence could erupt during the exchanges.
Traveling for parenting time is also a significant consideration, especially with more parents having to move away to find better or any employment. Specifically, the statute states: “The inconvenience to, and burdensome impact or effect on, the child of traveling for purposes of parenting time.” If the parents live a significant distance apart, whether in the same state (think about the UP in Michigan), or in different states, putting junior on a plane or through a 4 hour car ride one-way isn’t always going to be feasible.
In these cases, it makes more sense to offer the parent longer periods of parenting time so that junior is not constantly trapped in the car, missing out on sleep and school events. Instead, the child can spend more time in one place, but less frequently, to cut back on issues with travel.
Most people agree that parenting time should change as the kids age and change, and the above five factors are only some of the statutory factors the court may consider – keep a look out for the last 4 in May!