Can I Change My Parenting Time Agreement in Michigan?
Even though parenting time arrangements may feel final, primarily when issued by court order, it is essential to understand that they can change over time. Michigan courts understand that as children grow and evolve, their needs change, as do the parents’ circumstances. Although the parenting time agreement does not change instantly, an effective family law attorney is dedicated to supporting clients even after their divorce is finalized and the custody plan is set.
Not every parenting time schedule is the same. Some court orders lay out specific schedules, setting forth the dates and times each parent is entitled to parenting time. On the other hand, some court orders only state that the parents will have “reasonable” parenting time. In the first case, you must abide by the schedule on the court order unless it is specifically modified. However, if you are bound only to a “reasonable” parenting schedule, you and the other parent can work out modifications between yourselves. Even if the other parent agrees to a modification, you may not modify a parenting time schedule set by the court without the court’s approval.
Typically, there are three types of changes to parenting time:
The first type of change modifies the parenting schedule, allowing one parent to have custody longer or more often. The second type of change is a modification to the child’s ECE, “established custodial environment,” which, according to Michigan Compiled Laws Section 722.27, refers to the place where over an appreciable time, the child naturally looks to the custodian in that environment for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort. Finally, the third type of change involves adding or removing a condition of parenting time. These conditions may require a parent to attend counseling or receive regular drug or alcohol screenings.
Though it is not an exact science, judges typically look for the child’s best interests when modifying a parenting time order.
When a change would require modifying the child’s established custodial environment, the judge will look for a considerable change in circumstances that would justify changing custody. For example, if the parent has abandoned the home or subjected the child to neglect or abuse, a judge will likely grant a change to the ECE.
A judge will look for changed circumstances for modifications to the frequency or duration of parenting time. Still, the circumstances need not be as significant as if the ECE were changing. For example, if a parent becomes very busy with work or other family obligations, or if the child becomes very busy with school and it inhibits regularly scheduled parenting time, a judge may grant a modification. Similarly, for a change to a condition of parenting time, the movant must also show that there has been the proper cause or circumstances to add, remove, or change the condition.
A request to modify the terms of the parenting time schedule must be made through a motion. In Michigan courts, this legal document is appropriately called” a “Motion to Change Parenting Time.” Consider speaking with an experienced attorney to help prepare these documents and ensure they are appropriately filed. After the motion is filed and court fees are paid, the court will schedule a hearing. It would be best if you then served “The Respondent,” or the non-moving parent, with both the motion and a notice of the date and time of the hearing.
Melissa Pearce & Associates has years of experience representing clients through all the phases of divorce and separation, including post-judgment modifications. We understand that there are many reasons to change a parenting time agreement, and as your life changes, your custody arrangement should change to reflect those circumstances. We fight for our clients and always keep the best interests of children top of mind. If you believe your circumstances have changed such that it would be appropriate to modify your parenting time agreement, contact us to discuss your case with an experienced Michigan family law attorney.