Ninth Judicial Circuit Court
FRIEND OF THE COURT HANDBOOK - PARENTING TIME QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1. MY PARENTING TIME ORDER STATES I HAVE "REASONABLE PARENTING TIME RIGHTS." WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Reasonable parenting time rights can vary greatly from case to case, taking into consideration the parents' schedules and the ages or needs of the child. What is reasonable in one situation may not be reasonable in another. Most frequently, however, a regular pattern of parenting time is established. The Kalamazoo County 9th Circuit Court has established a policy to define reasonable parenting time. That policy includes the following parenting time:
School Year Parenting Time
- Alternate weekends from Friday at 6:00 p.m. to Sunday at 6:00 p.m.
- Each Wednesday evening from 6:00 p.m. to 8 p.m. (distance between parents permitting)
Summer Parenting Time
- Parenting time for one-half of the summer vacation (defined more specifically in the parenting time policy).
Spring Break Parenting Time - Parenting time to be alternated between the parents each year.
Winter Holiday Break - to be shared evenly, alternating the first or second half of the break each year.
Holidays - are to be alternated and include:
Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the New Year's holiday (defined more specifically in the parenting time policy).
Children's Birthdays - are to be alternated between the parents.
Father's Day/Mother's Day - The children should be with the father each year on Father's Day and with the mother each year on Mother's Day.
Other Reasonable Parenting Time - is defined in the Kalamazoo County Parenting Time Policy. For a copy of the complete policy, contact or go to the Friend of the Court office.
Parents are encouraged to be flexible about parenting time. Recognize that your schedules as parents will change, and your child's schedule and needs will also change as your child grows. You will have to talk to each other about parenting time for the benefit of your child. If you cannot mutually agree to a parenting time schedule or believe your order should be changed:
- Contact the other party to see if he or she will agree to mediate.
- File a petition on your own behalf or contact an attorney to help you file a petition to request a different parenting time order.
2. DOES THE COURT MAKE ANY ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT PARENTING TIME THAT ARE NOT STATED IN THE ORDER?
Yes. Unless the parties agree otherwise, the court normally assumes that:
a) Parenting time will occur in a regular, consistent manner.
b) Parents will cooperate in the best interests of the child, will be sensitive to the child's needs and wishes, and will be flexible in working out needed alterations in the parenting time routine.
c) The "visiting parent" will provide any needed transportation for the visits.
d) The regular alternating weekend pattern should be maintained throughout the year even when the child is with the non-custodial parent for extended times.
e) Holiday parenting time and other specified times take precedence over the regular weekend rotation.
Judges may make exceptions depending upon the specifics of each case.
3. I HAVE A SPECIFIC PARENTING TIME SCHEDULE THAT I NEED TO CHANGE. WHAT CAN I DO?
If you need a temporary change in your parenting time schedule, contact the other parent to discuss making other arrangements. Agreed changes should be in writing and signed by both parents. Each parent should have a copy of the signed agreement. An agreement by the parties without a court order is not enforceable. If no agreement between the parties is reached, you must follow the existing court order or file a petition asking that the order be changed.
If you need to make a long-term change:
a) You and the other parent can agree to a change and a revised order (stipulation and consent order).
b) The FOC can provide mediation services, if both parties agree to mediate.
c) You can file a petition with the court for a change in the order, either on your own behalf or with the help of an attorney.
4. IF THE VISITING PARENT IS NOT MAKING REGULAR CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS, DO I HAVE TO ALLOW PARENTING TIME?
Yes. Parenting time and support are separate orders of the court, with separate enforcement procedures. Violation of the terms of the order by one parent does not permit violation of the order by the other parent.
5. THE OTHER PARTY IS NOT FOLLOWING THE PARENTING TIME ORDER (I.E., CHILD IS NOT READY FOR PARENTING TIME; CHILD IS PICKED UP AND/OR RETURNED LATE, ETC.) WHAT CAN I DO?
File a written Parenting Time Complaint with the FOC office (FOC can provide the form). If the FOC determines that either parent has violated the parenting time order, they will start appropriate enforcement action.
6. CLOTHING IS NOT SENT FOR OR RETURNED FROM PARENTING TIME. IS THERE ANYTHING THE FOC CAN DO?
The FOC does not have any power to require the parent to provide or return clothing.
7. DO I HAVE TO LET MY CHILD GO FOR PARENTING TIME IF IT APPEARS THAT THE OTHER PARENT HAS BEEN DRINKING OR USING DRUGS?
That is your decision. If you make the decision to deny parenting time in these circumstances, you may be asked to explain why you felt your decision was in the best interest of the child. For a persistent situation the best procedure is to consult with your attorney, if you have one; and perhaps file a petition with the court requesting guidance. If the other parent disputes your claim that they were drinking or using drugs and files a complaint with the FOC, you may be required to explain to the FOC or the court why you denied parenting time to the other parent. You will then be required to establish that there was an apparent danger to the child that caused you to deny the scheduled parenting time.
8. I AM CONCERNED ABOUT THE OTHER PARENT DISCUSSING CHANGES IN THE COURT ORDERS WITH THE CHILD. WHAT CAN THE FOC DO?
The FOC cannot prevent the other parent from discussing court orders with the children.
9. THE FOC REFUSED TO ENFORCE MY PARENTING TIME ORDER. WHAT CAN I DO?
The law requires the FOC to enforce parenting time orders, in most cases. If FOC personnel refuse to comply with the law, you have a right to file a grievance regarding FOC operations with the FOC.
10. DOES THE FOC HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGED ABUSE AND/OR NEGLECT OF A CHILD?
No. The FOC is not responsible for investigating child abuse or neglect. Allegations of abuse or neglect should be reported to the Children's Protective Services unit of your local Department of Human Services (DHHS) office.
11. I HAVE A PARENTING TIME ORDER, AND MY TEENAGE CHILD DOES NOT WANT TO COME FOR PARENTING TIME. WHAT CAN I DO?
The parents of the child are bound by the court orders. However, you may consider one or more of the following:
a) You may want to see if you can work out a different parenting time arrangement with the child and the other parent.
b) You can file a petition with the court requesting a change in your parenting time order.
c) You can request that the FOC enforce your parenting time order.
12. I WANT TO TAKE THE CHILD ON A TRIP, BUT IT'S THE OTHER PARENT'S WEEKEND. WHAT CAN I DO?
Parents are encouraged to follow a regular parenting time schedule pursuant to the provisions of the order. If the regular schedule cannot be followed because of extraordinary circumstances, you should arrange an alternate parenting time period.
It is best to get agreed changes in writing signed by both parents. If you cannot agree to a change in the schedule, then you are to abide by the current court order.
A referee or judge may order make-up parenting time on a case depending upon the circumstances involved and the facts presented.