When parenting time orders are entered, whether via agreement by the parties or by the court at the conclusion of litigation, it’s the court’s expectation the parents will exercise the parenting time they have just fought for, or agreed to. This expectation of the court is logical. However, people sometimes forego parenting time for various reasons. This can include employment schedule changes, relocation, relationship issues with the children, and more.
And it’s frustrating to you when the other parent refuses to exercise their parenting time per the court order, and when they fail to be a parent to your children. But just because it’s been a long time since the other parent has exercised their parenting time, or fails to exercise their parenting time consistently, it’s not a justification for you to refuse parenting time to the other parent.
Even if the other parent hardly sees the children, you may not unilaterally withhold parenting time in violation of the terms of that court order. In Michigan, parenting time orders are treated seriously, and it is forbidden for parents to unilaterally deny parenting time. And you’re not within your right to unilaterally change the terms of the parenting time order simply because the other parent is not exercising their parenting time per the terms of the court order.
Courts have stated they can’t force a parent to exercise their parenting time, that parents can opt in and out as parents, and that it happens all of the time. But just because the other parent fails to exercise their parenting time consistently, does not allow you to take matters into your own hands.
If you are concerned about the other parenting failing to exercise their parenting time, then you may want to pursue a modification. In these situations, it’s important to ask why is the other parent not exercising their parenting time and how long has this been going on. If the other parent, without valid justification and for a decent length of time, has failed to exercise their parenting time, a modification of the parenting time order may be appropriate. If you believe a change in parenting time or custody is appropriate, then you must file a motion. The judge can review your motion and decide if they are willing to change your current custody or parenting time order.
However, before you take action, what is your goal? What do you hope to accomplish with the judge? If the other parent refuses to see the children now, or is inconsistent with their involvement with the children, any changes to the court order may not incentivize them to step up as parents. And many judges do not believe the failure to exercise parenting time as defined in your court order is enough to change custody or parenting time.
So, before you file your motion seek legal counsel to discuss the specific facts in your case. Let’s sit down and talk about your options. Let’s see what’s best for you, and your children, given your specific circumstances.
Let’s discuss the specifics of your situation. At Schmitt Law, PLLC we understand that the interests of your children always come first. Whatever your situation, Schmitt Law, PLLC is experienced, sympathetic and willing to help you achieve the best outcome for your entire family. Contact Schmitt Law, PLLC today by completing our online contact form, or calling us at (616) 608-4634 to schedule a consultation. Our office is located at 401 Hall Street SW, Suite 112D, Grand Rapids, MI 45903.