Under Michigan law, what is commonly known as “visitation” is actually called “parenting time.” This is a deliberate choice of words, intended to eliminate the idea that one parent is “custodial” and the other “visits” the kids. Instead, both parents have “parenting time,” time that is designated for them and their children to be together, doing the everyday things that parents and children do. Rather than living with mom, and visiting dad (or vice versa), the child has a home with each of them.
Sometimes, of course, one parent interferes with, or outright denies, the other’s parenting time. This hurts the parent who loses time with the child, but it also hurts the child: Michigan presumes that in most circumstances it’s best for children to have a relationship with both parents. Sometimes restrictions need to be placed on the time spent together–think supervised parenting time for a parent who has a history of substance abuse issues. But in general, spending time with each parent is critical to helping the parent-child relationship thrive.
So what can be done when one parent denies the other’s parenting time? Here’s a checklist:
Ask. As angry as you may be about not getting to spend time with your child, it’s important to know what is behind the denial. So ask, if needed. Be careful not to use an accusatory tone or words. Don’t assume that your ex is out to get you. There may be a legitimate reason. Being reasonable with your ex may go a long way toward preventing this becoming a major or repeated issue. And it allows your ex to actually speak with you about the issue rather than becoming defensive.
Document. If your ex is showing a pattern of denying or interfering with parenting time, you will want to document each instance, with times, dates, and circumstances, as well as any statements made by your spouse that suggest the denial of parenting time is malicious. Print out e-mails and take screenshots of text messages. Also, document the reasonable efforts you’ve made to facilitate parenting time. If you need to go to court, this specific information could be exactly what the judge needs to justify ruling in your favor.
Consult. If you’ve been unsuccessful getting parenting time on your own, it’s time to consult with a Michigan family law attorney. If you don’t have a parenting time order, your attorney can help you get one. If you do, your attorney can explain options, and help you get the order enforced and/or modified as appropriate.
It may feel as if your child’s other parent is punishing you with the denial of parenting time (and indeed, this may be their intent!). But resist the temptation to yell, threaten, or refuse to pay child support. These things may make you feel better in the short term, but are likely to hurt your ultimate goal: being with your child.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Metro Detroit Divorce Attorneys
When dealing with denial of parenting time, it’s best to have an attorney who has a depth of experience in family law practice. Carlo Martina has spent more than thirty years helping families resolve custody and parenting time disputes. Our law office serves clients in Plymouth, Novi, Livonia, Westland, Southfield, and the surrounding Metro Detroit communities.
To schedule a consultation, call (734) 254-1140 or complete our contact form.