Parenting Time & Child Custody Laws in Michigan

Parenting time refers to the amount of time individual parents are allowed to spend with a child after a divorce. This amount of time is determined by the court and can often lead to controversy and disputes between parents. These disputes may include disagreements over the division of time, and how this amount of time is measured.

This page provides an overview on child custody laws and details on parenting time in Michigan.

Overview of Michigan Child Custody Laws

Child custody has been an evolving legal matter over the last century. In Michigan, a long time ago, the father had absolute rights to the children then it changed to the mother having a preference as the best parent.

In the modern day, Michigan courts use a specific standard of determining child custody. This standard involves a gender neutral approach that assesses the ability of each parent to care for their children.


The Michigan family division looks to the Child Custody Act of 1970 to determine the child’s custody, support and parenting time. Even if the parties come to an agreement about custody in Michigan, the court must still apply the best interest standard in determining whether or not to abide by the agreement of the parties. Even if a determination is made by the alternative dispute resolution process in Michigan, the court must still make their own determination.

In Michigan custody battles, parents, agencies and third parties including grandparents may have standing to seek custody. In Michigan the parent is given the presumption of custody, because it is presumed that it is best for the child to be with a parent unless there is clear and convincing evidence to establish custody with another person or agency.

A Michigan judge must examine the best interest of each individual child, but will keep the children together if that is indeed best for the child.

Difference Between Parenting Time and Child Custody

In Michigan, there is a presumption that it is in the best interest of the child to have a strong relationship with both parents. If one parent has sole physical custody of a child in Michigan it is presumed that the other parent will be granted parenting time, which means spending time with the child. Parenting time in Michigan will be granted to a parent as frequency, prolonged and type reasonable to promote a strong relationship between the child and parent who is granted parenting time. This might mean certain weekends, holidays, certain extended vacations; courts and parties can get creative in determining parenting time in Michigan.

Parties are free to come to an agreement on their own about parenting time in Michigan cases, which are subject to the court’s review of the “best interest of the child” or a court may determine the parenting time.

Parenting time is modifiable in Michigan by the parties consent or a party filing a motion, and the court making a determination if proper cause has been shown and if there is a change of circumstances, which warrant the modification.

How To Enforce Parenting Time

In Michigan, the Friend of the Court is the go-to person for enforcing parenting time. If the Michigan Friend of the Court receives a written complaint with specific facts constituting a custody or parenting time violation, they must take action.

A parenting time or custody order violation in Michigan is defined as “an individual’s act or failure to act that interferes with a parent’s right to interact with his or her child in the time, place, and manner established in the order that governs custody or parenting time between the parent and the child and to which the individual accused of interfering is subject”

The remedy for a violation of a parenting time order in Michigan is usually to apply “make-up” time to the aggrieved parent, or if necessary schedule alternative dispute resolution or a joint meeting between the parents.

If necessary your Michigan family law attorney can file a motion to enforce parenting time along with additional motions with the court to modify parenting time to ensure future compliance, and contempt proceedings could be initiated.

Grand-Parenting Time

In Michigan, a presumption exists that a fit parent’s decision to deny grand-parenting time does not create a substantial risk of harm to the child. A grandparent in Michigan may need to petition for time with grandchildren if the parents are denying them access. To rebut this presumption, and win on the issue, the grandparent must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the parent’s decision to deny grand-parenting time creates a substantial risk of harm to the child’s mental, physical or emotional health.

Child Support Payments

Michigan courts have held that duty to make support payments may be suspended if parenting time is denied unless the suspension of payments would adversely affect the children.

If the answer to this question is not clear, and one is strongly advised to speak to a Michigan family lawyer before taking action.

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