Friday, May 13, 2011

Parenting Time: Are Courts Biased?

by Wendy Alton

Parenting time is the legal term used in divorce for the specific schedule that each parent has with their children. Two recent studies conducted by Arizona State University raise some questions about whether the family courts are biased in their awards of parenting time.

I blogged last week about the parenting time schedule that the Wayne County Circuit (Family) Court recently implemented. Effective this year, parents that have a judgment or order that specifies “reasonable parenting time” will be bound by the court’s schedule, found here: Wayne County Circuit Court Co-Parenting Plan. Interestingly, the Co-Parenting Plan establishes parenting time plans time based upon the child’s age. Even a brief review of the Co-Parenting Plan reveals that in no way does it provide for equal time for both parents. The Co-Parenting Plan provides the non-custodial parent (usually dad) overnights on an every-other weekend basis, with one overnight each week.

However, the studies conducted and summarized here, Public Support Rising for Joint Custody, reveal that there is an incredible growing public support for equal time for both parents. Equal time was preferred in these studies even in high-conflict situations. The participants of the study made mock decisions as a judge in custody disputes, and overwhelmingly granted equal time to the mother and father. The studies reveal that the public believes that courts favor mom, and that the courts should instead be giving equal time with the children to both mom and dad.

The law in Michigan regarding parenting time states that “It is presumed to be in the best interests of a child for the child to have a strong relationship with both of his or her parents… parenting time shall be granted to a parent in a frequency, duration, and type reasonably calculated to promote a strong relationship.” MCL 722.27a. Many believe that this goes hand-in-hand with giving mom and dad equal time with the children. Many believe that the enforcement of cookie-cutter parenting time guidelines or even the Wayne County Co-Parenting Plan does not promote a strong relationship between the parents and their children.

It will be interesting to see how the courts respond to the growing public demand for equal parenting time, especially in light of recent parenting time guidelines that generally favor mom.

Lesson to learn? If you are going through a divorce and you are unsatisfied with the court’s parenting time plan, make sure that you or your attorney negotiate the specific time that you want time with your children. Agree on a schedule that works for the best of your own family.

If you are interested in learning more about divorce, or have a question about divorce, please call Wendy Alton at 248-380-9976 or email her at

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