Michigan Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
This article covers custody agreements in Michigan and gives guidelines on creating an effective parenting plan for Michigan courts.
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
Creating a parenting plan / custody agreement in the State of Michigan can be made easier by becoming familiar with the Family Law of the State.
The laws pertaining to child custody and visitation can be found in the Michigan Compiled Statutes. The Statutes contain the Child Custody Act of 1970 which serves as a declaration of the rights of minor children and establishes the rights and rules of child custody matters.
In addition to the actual statutes, the courts utilize a document called the Michigan Parenting Time Guideline as a reference when ruling on family law proceedings involving children.
Understanding the laws and the contents of the Guideline will enable you to create a parenting plan in accordance with the rules of the State and will increase your chances of having your parenting plan successfully adopted by the court.
The purpose of the Michigan Parenting Time Guideline is to serve as a reference for the courts and families and contains portions of the law in combination with recommendations based on the opinions of qualified professionals.
It was created by a committee comprised of mental health professionals, Friend of the Court Bureau Advisory members, and State Court Administrative Office staff.
It contains suggested parenting time schedules and outlines the required elements of a parenting plan. It is used by the courts as a guide but is not considered to be definitive in all cases.
The type of custody you should have depends on the circumstances in your child's life and what is best for your child.
In child custody disputes, the State of Michigan's ultimate concern is the child. The courts do not presume to rule in favor of the parents, but instead make rulings in accordance with the needs and best interests of the child.
It is the presumption of the court, (in the absence of any circumstances that would warrant protection of the child from harm), that a child has the right to have both parents as active participants in the child's life.
It is presumed that having a strong relationship with both parents is in the best interests of the child (MCL 722.27a). Parents are encouraged to seek and share joint custody of their child.
When ruling on a parenting plan and other custody matters, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including but not limited to the ones listed in the Michigan Parenting Time Guideline and MCL 722.27a:
- Any special needs of the child
- Whether or not the child is nursing
- The likeness of abuse or neglect of the child during parenting time or of a parent as the result of exercising parenting time
- The extent of travel the child will have to do in order to commute between parents and whether or not it is inconvenient for or burdensome on the child
- The likeliness of a parent to facilitate the parenting time schedule and whether or not a parent has regularly failed to do so
- Any threats of concealment or actual concealment of the child made in an effort to keep the child from a custodial parent
To ensure your parenting plan serves the needs of your child and is written in your child's best interests, you should also think about these factors when making your custody agreement:
- The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between each parent and the child
- The capacity and disposition of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue in the education and raising of the child in his/her religion or creed, if any
- The ability of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, or other remedial care, and other material needs
- The duration of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and if the child should continue in that environment
- The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes
- The moral fitness of the parents
- The mental and physical health of the parents and the child
- The home, school, and community record of the child
- If the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference, the reasonable preference of the child
- The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent
- Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child
- Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular custody dispute
These are only some of the factors that will affect how you make your parenting plan / custody agreement. You should also think about the special needs of your child and the practicalities of making an agreement work between you and the other parent.
The parenting plan should include a statement determining the custody of the child and a parenting time schedule that dictates when the child will spend time with each parent.
The parenting plan should also include one or more of the following reasonable terms and conditions listed in MCL 722.27a (8):
- A statement regarding the division of the responsibility of transporting the child between exchanges
- A statement regarding the division of costs associated with transporting the child between exchanges
- Any restrictions of the presence of a third party during parenting time
- Requirements that the child is ready to go at the onset and end of parenting times
- A requirement of the amount of advanced notice a parent should provide the other parent with in the event parenting time will not occur
- Any other reasonable terms or conditions the parent(s) find applicable
If you can reach an agreement with the other parent and submit a parenting plan to the court on your own, the court shall order the terms of the agreement unless evidence is found to suggest the terms of the parenting agreement are not in your child's best interests (MCL 722.27a).
As parents, you are logically the most qualified to create a parenting plan for your child, as you have intimate knowledge of your child and his or her needs and the court does not.
Parents working together and submitting a parenting plan jointly is the preferred custodial assignment method of the court.
If parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court will make the decision and create a parenting plan for your child. The court will examine a variety of factors that comprise the cumulative best interests of the child and base the decision on what the court finds to be what is best for your child.
Once a parenting plan is accepted by the court, it is made a court order called a "parenting time order".
The parenting time order is a binding contract that you must abide by until the child reaches adulthood unless you mutually agree to modify it or a judge modifies it.
In order to avoid the cost and inconvenience of future litigation, it is important to put careful thought and planning into the parenting plan.
No matter is too small to be included if you feel there may be an issue with it in the future. Creating a comprehensive parenting plan written in the best interest of the child is the best way to ensure your child's needs are being met.
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