Changing Parenting Time

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A parenting time schedule is not set in stone. The judge can change it at the request of one or both parents. Some changes to a parenting time schedule may affect child support, too. Child support is calculated using many factors, including the number of overnights each parent spends with the child.

If you think the changes you want to make to parenting time will also affect your child support order, read Getting or Changing a Child Support Order next.

If you need help enforcing your parenting time order, read Enforcing Orders for Custody, Parenting Time, and Child Support.

What Kind of Parenting Time Schedule Do You Have?

If you want to change your parenting time schedule, first look at what your court order says about it. Your court order might have a specific parenting time schedule with details about when each parent has the child or children. Or the order may simply say there will be reasonable or regular parenting time. With reasonable parenting time, the parents must work out the details of the schedule together. Both parents must agree on dates, times, and any other conditions with reasonable parenting time.

You may want to change parenting time if you currently have reasonable parenting time and you can’t agree to a schedule, or if you want to change an existing specific schedule.

What Should a Specific Parenting Time Schedule Look Like?

The Parenting Time Guideline created by the Friend of the Court Bureau is a helpful resource for parents who need to put together a parenting time schedule. The Guideline includes sample schedules you can use as a starting place. It also has information about the developmental needs of children at different ages in connection to parenting time. The Guideline addresses specific topics such as long distance parenting time, parenting time with a parent who is in prison, and how to address domestic violence situations.

Will the Other Parent Agree?

You may want to find out if your child's other parent will agree to the change. If your current order is for reasonable parenting time and the other parent agrees to the change, you do not have to file anything with the court. However, if your order has a specific parenting time schedule, the judge must approve a change in the schedule even if the other parent agrees. An order with a specific schedule stays in effect until the judge signs a new order.

If both parents agree to change a specific parenting time schedule, they can ask the judge to sign a proposed order without filing a motion. In that case, there is no court hearing unless the judge requests one. If you and your child’s other parent agree on changing parenting time, you can use the Do-It-Yourself Motion to Change Parenting Time tool to create the proposed order you need.

When Can I File a Motion to Change Parenting Time?

If the other parent does not agree to the change you want, you can file a Motion Regarding Parenting Time in your family case. There must be proper cause or a change in circumstances for the judge to reconsider parenting time. What qualifies as proper cause or a change in circumstances differs depending on the kind of change you ask for. If the amount of parenting time you want actually changes custody instead of parenting time, it will be harder to prove than if you ask for a smaller change. To learn more, read How a Judge Decides a Motion to Change Parenting Time.

How Do I File a Motion?

If you want to change an ex parte order regarding parenting time (a temporary order entered without a hearing), use the form called Objection to Ex Parte Order and Motion to Rescind or Modify. You must file this form within 14 days after you were served with the ex parte order.

To change any other parenting time order, you can use our Do-It-Yourself Motion to Change Parenting Time tool to create the forms you need. If you file the motion, you are the moving party. The other parent is the Respondent.

The court will charge a fee to file your motion. If you get public assistance or cannot afford to pay the fee, you can ask the court to waive your fees. You can use our Do-It-Yourself Fee Waiver tool to do this.

When you file your motion, you will get a hearing date from the court clerk. The clerk will tell you the hearing date and time. Put that information in the notice of hearing at the bottom of your motion. Then you must serve the motion and notice of hearing on the Respondent. To learn more, visit Filing to Change Parenting Time and read the set of instructions that applies to you.

What Happens Next?

Court Process

After you file and serve your motion, the other parent may file a response. If you receive a response, read it carefully. It should state whether the other parent agrees or disagrees with each part of your motion.

If you and your child’s other parent disagree about parenting time, you may meet with the Friend of the Court first or have a hearing in front of a judge or referee, depending on your county. At the meeting or hearing, you and the other party will each have a chance to say why you think parenting time should be changed or left the same. Bring any documents that support your claims.

If you meet with a Friend of the Court worker, they will likely make a recommendation to the judge about whether to change parenting time.

If you have a hearing in front of a judge, the judge may decide whether to change parenting time at or after the hearing. Or the judge may refer the motion to a referee, who will hold a less formal hearing and prepare a recommended order for the judge.

If you did not have an initial meeting with the Friend of the Court, a judge or referee may refer your motion to the Friend of the Court for an investigation and recommendation. If a Friend of the Court worker makes a recommendation after an investigation, or if a referee makes a recommended order, the judge will consider whether to make the recommendation a final order in your case. You will have a chance to object to the recommendation before that can happen.

The judge could also order you and the other parent to participate in an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process to try to settle the matter. This might be Friend of the Court mediation or another Friend of the Court meeting, or it could be mediation with a private mediator. To learn more, read Friend of the Court Overview and Mediation and Other Forms of Settlement.

The Friend of the Court process varies by county. To learn more about Friend of the Court, read Friend of the Court Overview.

How the Judge Decides

For the judge to grant a change in parenting time, you will need to show there is proper cause or a change in circumstances. If you’re asking only to change, add, or remove a parenting time condition, this means showing that the current order is no longer in your child’s best interests. For any other parenting time change, proper cause or change in circumstances can be harder to prove.

If the requested change will affect how often and how long parenting time occurs, but won’t affect the custody arrangement, then even normal changes in your child’s life can be enough to qualify as a change in circumstances.

However, if the requested parenting time change will affect the current custody arrangement, the change must be significant. You must show that the change in circumstances is more than just normal life changes in the life of your child. You must also provide evidence that the change has affected your child or is very likely to affect your child. If changing parenting time will affect custody, proper cause must be related to at least one of the 12 “best interests of the child” factors. To learn more, read The “Best Interests of the Child” Factors. It must also have (or be likely to have) a significant effect on the child. A change in circumstances is similar to proper cause. If something that happened after the judge signed the last custody order qualifies as a change in circumstances, it usually will also be proper cause. The reverse is also true.

If you can’t prove proper cause or a change in circumstances, your current order will stay in place. If you do prove proper cause or a change in circumstances, the judge will change parenting time if you can also show that doing so is in the child’s best interests.

To learn more, read How a Judge Decides a Motion to Change Parenting Time.

What If I Want to Move with My Child?

If you are planning to move out of Michigan with your children, you must file a Motion to Change Domicile. You may also need to file a Motion to Change Domicile to ask the judge for permission to move within Michigan. Depending on your situation, you may have to do this if you are planning to move with your children more than 100 miles from where you lived when your family case was filed. Visit Filing to Move with Your Children to learn more.

What If the Other Parent Is on Active Military Duty?

Changing custody or parenting time can be complicated if a child's parent is on active military duty. It may be difficult to find and serve papers on a service member stationed overseas. There are also state and federal laws that give people on active duty extra protections in civil cases.

If a parent is deployed on military duty when the motion to change custody or parenting time is filed, the judge may stay (halt) the proceeding if either parent asks.

Generally, while a parent is deployed, a judge may not change custody or parenting time from what it was at the date of deployment. The only exception is when the judge finds there is clear and convincing evidence that it is in the child’s best interests to change custody or parenting time. In this case, the judge can enter a temporary order.

If the judge signs a temporary order, the deployed parent must notify the court within 30 days of when the deployment ends. The judge will then reinstate the parenting time order that was in effect just before the deployment.

The other parent may file a motion to change custody or parenting time after the deployed parent returns. The judge cannot consider a parent’s absence due to deployment when weighing the best interests of a child.

If you are filing to change custody or parenting time and the child’s other parent is on active military duty, you may want to hire a lawyer. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services in your area.

What If the Other Parent Is Incarcerated?

If your child’s other parent is incarcerated by the State of Michigan, let the court know. Contact the Department of Corrections to confirm the parent’s prison number and location. In your motion, state the following facts:

  • That the other parent is incarcerated
  • The other parent’s prison number
  • The other parent’s location
  • That a telephonic hearing is required by Michigan Court Rule 2.004

The court must allow the other parent to participate in the hearing by phone, teleconference, or in person.

You must notify your child’s other parent about the motion hearing even if he or she is in prison. Mail the papers to the prison and complete the certificate of mailing on the remaining copies of your motion. File two copies with the court clerk’s office. Keep the other copy for your records.

Finding a Lawyer

Changing parenting time can be complicated, especially if it would affect custody. You might decide you want a lawyer to help you. If you have a low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have a low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area. If you are not able to get free legal services but can’t afford high legal fees, consider hiring a lawyer for part of your case instead of the whole thing. This is called limited scope representation. To learn more, read Limited Scope Representation (LSR): A More Affordable Way to Hire a Lawyer. To find a limited scope lawyer, follow this link to the State Bar of Michigan lawyer directory. This link lists lawyers who offer limited scope representation. You can narrow the results to lawyers in your area by typing in your county, city, or zip code at the top of the page. You can also narrow the results by topic by entering the kind of lawyer you need (divorce, estate, etc.) at the top of the page.