Who owns the child’s clothing, toys, equipment, and personal effects? This is a question that is asked quite often. Arguments are made that the children’s property belong to the parent who purchased the items for the child. This is often followed up with statements that the purchasing parent can prohibit those items from being taken to the other parent’s house. I have heard stories of children wearing a designated outfit on exchange days due to prohibition of taking anything from mommy’s house to daddy’s house and vice versus.

Joint Legal Custody and Children’s Property

In Michigan, when parents have agreed to or are granted joint legal custody, language is typically added to the Judgment of Divorce to define what joint legal custody means. One of the paragraphs defining joint legal custody states as follows:

That the child’s clothing, toys, equipment, and personal effects shall be the property of the child and not the parties. This means that the child’s clothing, toys, equipment, and personal effects may move back and forth with the child between the parties’ respective residences as the child so desires and neither party will impede this process. Furthermore, neither party may enter the residence of the other to retrieve any property belonging to the minor child.

I Bought the Children’s Property. Can I Restrict It’s Movement?

This language attempts to settle the question of who owns the child’s clothing, toys, equipment, and personal effects. There is no restriction on the child on which house property can be moved to. The child decides and neither parent should do or say anything to hinder the child from freely moving property. If you are having disagreements over the children’s property, pull out your Judgment of Divorce or custody order and see what it says. Do you find the above language in your judgment? If so, then the property belongs to the child and she can decide where to take it. If you cannot find the above language or something similar in your judgment, then contact an attorney to find out what you can do to resolve the dispute and minimize the conflicts around the child. If you need help, contact us today for a free 15-minute telephone consultation.

The beginning of the school year can be an exciting time for children. They are excited to learn who their new teacher is and if any of their friends are in their class this year. They may look forward to the annual school clothes shopping sprees or want to pick out their new school supplies. However, when parents are divorced, the new school year can bring about anxiety for children, especially when their parents do not get along amicably. Here are the best tips I have discovered to start the new school year off on a positive note for children.

  1. Use technology to share information. With the choices we have today, co-parenting can be made easy and information shared openly, even when you do not want to talk with the other parent. There are apps for the phone and computer that allow parents to communicate without having to have face-to-face conversations. Parents have the option of using a shared Google calendar, Our Family Wizard, CoParenter, AppClose, TalkingParents, WeParent, 2houses, or Truece to share information. The key to all these apps is that the parents agree on which one to use and both have signed up for an account. Some of the apps charge yearly fees and others are completely free. Some of the apps will allow parents to add third parties to the group, such as the children, grandparents, or professionals that are assisting the family. If you do add a professional, notify the other parent of who has been added. Do your research and agree on which application to use to communicate. Reach an agreement for a deadline to respond by, so everyone is clear on what is a reasonable time to expect a response, if one is needed. By using an agreed upon method of communication, parents can send messages or upload information for the other parent without worrying about interrupting work.
  2. Review your court order.  The start of the new school year is a good time to pull out your judgment and review its terms. If you have had post-judgment issues resolved during the previous school year, pull out those orders as well. If you have joint legal custody, remember that the other parent needs to be include in decisions regarding the child’s education. Decide if the school should be provided with a copy of the judgment or order. This may be necessary if one parent has restricted or supervised parenting time, the court has limited one parenting from picking up the children, etc. If the school should have a copy, provide it with the completed school forms.
  3. Plan for attending school activities in a positive manner. When parents do not get along or fight every time they talk, plans should be made for attending school activities. Decide if the parents will alternate months on helping in the classroom or attending field trips. Talk to the teacher about options for parent-teacher conferences. Are the teachers willing to have two separate conferences? Ask if a parent can attend by telephone, if that parent does not live close to the school district? For school concerts and plays, both parents can sit on opposite sides of the room and not speak to one another. The important thing to remember is that the child can experience the support of both parents without feeling like the child has to choose or is waiting for a blow-up. For some activities, each parent may have to decide to put their differences aside for a few hours.
  4. Properly fill out school forms and alert school personnel to our family dynamics. When filling out the school forms, list each parent’s name in the appropriate slot with their known contact information. This lets the school know who the legal parents are and how to reach them. If you have remarried, identify your spouse with the appropriate title. It can be helpful to let the teacher know how the child prefers to address stepparents. Agree on who the emergency contact individuals will be.
  5. Plan to share the cost of school supplies. Start discussing how to share the costs of supplies after the Fourth of July, if it is not clear in your court orders. Will costs be shared equally, or pro rata based on the parties’ incomes? Understand that the items being purchased are for the children and not property of the parents. The children should be allowed to freely move their school supplies between houses and school as the child needs. Discuss on the requested supplies for the classroom will shared. There should be discussions and an agreement as to whether one parent will do the shopping and the other parent will reimburse or if each parent will separately purchase their share.
  6. Allow the other parent to enjoy the first day of school. Discuss with the other parent if they would like to jointly attend sending the child to the first day of school. It may not be possible due to work schedules or distance between homes but be willing to extend an invitation. If the other parent cannot join in sending the child off to the first day of school, then share photos from the first day in a shared account or in social media that the other parent can see. Remember this is a day for the child.
  7. Discuss ahead of time what extracurricular activities the child can participate in throughout the school year. The start of a new school year is a good time to discuss how many and which extracurricular activities the child can participate in. A good starting point is what is written in the court orders regarding activities. Discuss with the other parent if there is a limit to the amount of funds that you can contribute toward extracurriculars. Extracurricular activities can include sporting teams, dance, after-school clubs, scouting, band, orchestra, or music lessons. If there is a disagreement about the child participating in a winter or spring sport, now is the time to bring the matter before the court for its assistance in resolving the dispute. If you wait until the start of the season, the child may not be able to participate that year.
  8. Decide how to handle school emergencies and unexpected school closings. Discuss with the other parent what information to communicate to the school on who to contact when there is an emergency or school unexpected closes. The discussion should include how the unexpected school closing impacts the parenting time schedule and an agreed upon time to exchange the child if one parent picks up from school outside of his or her scheduled parenting time. Decide now if there will be a group chat that will be used when an emergency or unexpected school closing happens.
  9. Sync up the afterschool and bedtime routines. Both parents should be open to establishing the same routines for after school and at bedtime. Providing your children with joint routines and rules for both houses will minimize the time it takes children to re-acclimate to each parent’s house rules and expectations.
  10. Talk to your children.If your children are old enough, ask them what extracurriculars that they want to do. Find out what routines work best for child to accomplish everything that the child needs to get done. Hold your older child responsible for transporting schoolbooks and supplies between both houses.

The important thing to remember about starting off the school year as divorced parents is that your children still have two parents who love them and want to support their education. If you have joint legal custody, you need to work jointly with the other parent on education decisions. Minimize the number of third parties that are brought into your discussion until it is necessary. Then those third parties should be brought in to either elicit their input or to provide information that the third party needs to perform their role.

If you are experiencing unresolved conflicts with your ex-spouse, do not hesitate to contact our office at (248) 329-0344 for assistance in reaching an agreement that is best for your children.

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.” Aretha Franklin sang these words in her 1967 song, “Respect.” In a custody case, respect is defined by the judge or the Friend of the Court Referee. But even they have been given guidance in how to define the words. The legislature wrote down twelve factors for determining what is in the best interests of children when a court considers custody or parenting time. One of those factors, MCL 722.23j, addresses 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.” 

In a nutshell, this factor evaluates how much each parent shows respect to the other parent. When the court evaluates a parent’s willingness to promote a close bond with the other parent, the court is looking at how each parent acts towards the other parent or what that parent is saying in front of the children. The court looks to prior case law where other parents behaved badly toward one another for guidance. Here are three behaviors that demonstrate to the court that a parent lacks respect for the other parent. 

The first behavior is vindictiveness. When a parent is being vindictive, it is apparent that the parent has or is showing a strong or unreasoning desire for revenge. This can be outright attempting to destroy the bond between the other parent and child. Some behaviors that might demonstrate to the court that this is occurring are scheduling activities or allowing the child to schedule activities during the other parent’s parenting time or berating the other parent in front of the child.  

The second behavior is informing the child about court proceedings. Often, when one parent is sharing details of ongoing court proceedings, it is done with the intent to place the other parent in a bad light with the child. I have heard of parents communicating to their children, “Well, Daddy is trying to take you away from me” or “Mommy does not want us to have any fun.” No matter who is sharing, it is emotionally harmful for the child to be dragged into adult proceedings.  

A third behavior is showing an uncooperative attitude toward parenting time. It can be the little things done consistently over time that demonstrates this is occurring. A parent can be late in returning the children or having them ready for parenting time. A parent can unilaterally decide that parenting time should be canceled because of weather, the child’s activities, or illness. This parent will often talk using “I know” or “my child.”  

If you are experiencing any of these types of behaviors from the other parent, the solution is not to retaliate. Instead, team up with the attorneys at Melissa Pearce & Associates to find a respectful way to address the problems. Call us today to schedule your pre-engagement meeting. 

By: Melissa Pearce, Founding Attorney


When it comes to extracurriculars, one disagreement among parents is the number of activities. On occasions, parents present us with a schedule for their children that has them running from early in the morning until bedtime with no time for schoolwork.When this type of schedule is presented to our team, the question arises “How do I limit the number of extracurricular activities that my child is doing?”

When parents are divorced, the answer to this question is not always easy. Extracurricular activities have positive benefits for children. These benefits can include being able to socialize with friends, develop talents, and learn lessons that cannot be taught from inside a classroom.  However, there are risks that can be associated with the participation which could leave along-lasting negative impact.

            Before you file a motion to limit these activities, please consider these tips to reach an agreement outside of the courtroom.

  1. Enroll your children in age appropriate activities. Typically,these kinds of activities have minimum participation ages. Enrolling your child in something above their level can be strenuous on them and can be more harmful than helpful.
  2. A full physical examination will ensure that your children are physically capable of participating in the sport to prevent any injuries.
  3. Volunteer at school events. This can help you and your child make connections with other community members on a more consistent basis.
  4. Monitor your children’s grades to ensure their education is not suffering due to time constraints and pressure. Education should come first for the children.
  5. This will allow your child to have more time to complete school work and be active in family activities.
  6. Ask your children why they want to get involved in certain activities and continue to ask your children if they still want to continue doing those activities, especially as they take on advanced school courses or additional responsibilities.
  7. This will allow time for your children to keep up on their school work and prevent exhaustion from lack of rest.

            When seeking the court’s assistance on deciding the number of extracurricular activities, the argument should focus on what is best for the child rather than an intrusion into parenting time. In Michigan, the courts focus on what is best for the child first and foremost.

Participation in extracurricular activities is good for a child. They should participate as they are able so that they may learn to be more well-rounded for adulthood. There are somethings that we as parents cannot teach that much be experienced. Children gain lessons from participation in these that cannot be learned at home or in the classroom.

If you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent on how many extracurricular activities is reasonable, contact the team at Melissa Pearce & Associates for assistance. We are here to help you redefine your family.