A custody order, or that portion of your divorce judgment pertaining to custody, specifies with who the child shall live, and other conditions surrounding custody. Parents are encouraged to reach their own agreements regarding custody. When parents cannot agree, the judge must decide by considering all of the best interest factors. In a disputed custody case the Friend of the Court will be making recommendations in writing to the Court through conciliation. When dealing with Parenting Time issues it is best to obtain a clear order to avoid any issues with the other party. A judge generally will allow some Parenting Time regardless of the circumstances but may require the Parenting Time to be supervised depending on the specific facts. I always tell clients that regardless of their animosity towards the other party the child needs to come first and it is in the child's best interest to avoid airing issues in front of the child. Further, it is generally going to have a negative impact if a parent trys to play favorites with the child. It is presumed in each case that it is in the best interest of the child(ren) to have a strong relationship with both parents. If your court order or judgment does not set forth the parenting time rights and obligations of the parties, the parties are encouraged to reach agreement on parenting time, using the Reasonable Rights of Parenting Time as a guideline for agreement. A copy of Reasonable Rights of Parenting Time is attached below. If unable to reach an agreement, either party may file a motion to establish parenting time, which will be referred to the Ingham County Friend of the Court for resolution and recommendation to the Court. Assistance in preparing motions for, or objections to, parenting time may be obtained through private counsel or by attendance at the monthly FOC General Informational Meeting.
- Children are to be packed and ready to go for parenting time at the appropriate time, and they are to be returned on time with clothing intact.
- Failure to pick up the children within one half hour of the scheduled time can be considered forfeiture of that parenting time, unless prior arrangements have been made for a later or earlier pick up time. Parenting time lost due to your own neglect can never be regained. Don=t disappoint your children or leave them waiting for you.
- Parenting time is to be between the parent exercising parenting time and the child(ren). It is the responsibility of the parent exercising parenting time to provide child care should the parent have to work or have other appointments, etc.
- During a person's parenting time, that parent is responsible for all routine decisions affecting the child(ren).
- * Children have the inherent right to know and appreciate what is good in both parents without one parent degrading the other or being placed in a position to manipulate one parent against the other.
- If parenting time is wrongfully denied or abused the Friend of the Court must be notified in writing within fifty-six (56) days of the denial or abuse if make-up parenting time is requested.
The Friend of the Court normally initiates enforcement proceedings when it receives a written complaint stating specific facts (including dates, times and reasons given), about an alleged denial or abuse of parenting time, and when the Friend of the Court determines that there is reason to believe the court's order has been violated. This includes the failure, without adequate notice, of a parent to exercise parenting time. A copy of your complaint should be sent to the other party.Parenting Time Complaints
The parent who has been denied parenting time must submit a written parenting time complaint in the form of an affidavit to the Friend of the Court within 56 days of the date of denial. The Friend of the Court will review the complaint and court order prior to sending it to the alleged offending parent for a response. The other party has 21 days to respond to the allegations regarding denial. Parenting time affidavit forms are available at the Friend of the Court office or on the website.
If the Friend of the Court has reason to believe that the parenting time order has been violated, and if the parties do not resolve their differences with the assistance and direction of the Friend of the Court, the Friend of the Court may do one or more of the following:
- Hold a parenting time conference with the parties;.
- Apply the local make-up parenting time policy (contact the Friend of the Court for more information about its policy)
- Begin a civil contempt proceeding by filing a petition for an order to show cause.
- Recommend sanctions against a party for the violation.
Sometimes when a parent has been physically or emotionally separated from a child, it is necessary for there to be a degree of supervision in helping to rebuild the closeness and trust that needs to exist in a parenting/child relationship. The Ingham County Family Division Judges have provided programs to assist in their endeavor. Please see the options contained in Attachment E, and/or discuss with your caseworker or Parenting Time Advocate.Conciliation
The Ingham County Friend of the Court offers a procedure called Conciliation. It is a conference that is held with the parties and a trained conciliator from the Friend of the Court office. It is designed to help parties more quickly resolve disputes of child custody, parenting time and support issues. The trained conciliator first attempts to use medication techniques to help the parties resolve disputes. Unlike mediation, however, conciliation is not a voluntary process, but is required by the Court. If the parties reach an agreement, the conciliator will prepare an order reflecting that agreement. In the event the parties cannot reach agreement on the disputed issues, the conciliator will prepare a recommendation to the Court on the disputed issues.
If this is a new case, the Court will immediately enter the conciliator's recommendation as a temporary order. If either party objects to that recommended order, they may have a referee hearing by filing objections within 14 days after they receive the order.
If there already is a court order in the case prior to the conciliation, the Court will not immediately enter the recommended order. The Court will wait at least 21 days before entering the order to give the parties an opportunity to file objections to the recommended order. If objections are filed within the 21 days, a referee hearing will be held. Even if an objection is filed, the Court=s most recent order remains in full effect until and unless the Court modifies it so that support, custody and parenting time orders continue as legally binding on all parties.