A Motion Regarding Parenting Time is used to ask a judge to change parenting time. If your child’s other parent files this motion, you have a chance to respond.
Who Can Ask to Change Parenting Time?
Either parent can ask the judge to change parenting time in an existing family law case by filing a motion to change parenting time. It could be a divorce, separate maintenance, custody, paternity, or family support case, but there must already be a custody order or judgment in the case.
The parent who files the motion is the “moving party.” The moving party can be the Plaintiff or Defendant in the family law case.
If you and the other parent agree about changing parenting time, you can ask the judge to sign a proposed order without filing a motion and without having a court hearing.
When Can a Parent Ask to Change Parenting Time?
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 someone asks for. If a parent is actually trying to change custody instead of parenting time, it will be harder to prove than if they are asking for a smaller change. To learn more, read How a Judge Decides a Motion to Change Parenting Time.
What Can I Do If I Get a Motion Regarding Parenting Time?
Read the Papers Carefully
If you were served with a Motion Regarding Parenting Time, read it right away. It is important to understand what the other party is asking the judge to do. It is also important to know the date, time, and place of the hearing.
Decide How You Want to Respond
If your child’s other parent files a motion to change parenting time, you have three choices:
File a written response and participate in the hearing
Only participate in the hearing or
To give the judge a chance to read and understand your position before the hearing, it is a good idea to both file a written response and go to the hearing. You may want to respond to the motion even if you agree with the change in parenting time.
If you don’t file a response, you can still participate in the court hearing. It is important to attend the hearing so you can answer any questions the judge has. If you do not attend the hearing on time and there is proof in the court file that you were served, the judge may hold the hearing without you. This means the judge can change parenting time without your input.
Pay Attention to Deadlines
Court cases have strict deadlines. If you decide to file a written response to the Motion Regarding Parenting Time, you must file it with the court at least three days before the hearing. You must mail it to the other party at least five days before the hearing, or give it to them in person at least three days before the hearing.
How Do I File a Response?
You can use the Do-It-Yourself Response to Motion Regarding Parenting Time tool to create the forms you need. You will get a chance to say whether you agree to the parenting time change in the other parent’s motion. If you don’t agree, you can say what you would like the judge to order instead. If you do not agree with the other parent’s request, you will also be able to explain why you think the proposed change would not be in the child’s best interests.
Once you have your Response to Motion Regarding Parenting Time form, date and sign it. Make several copies and take it to the court clerk’s office to file. Mail the other parent a copy. If the other parent has a lawyer, mail the Response to the lawyer instead of the other parent.
For more detailed instructions, read the checklist that applies to you in the I Need to Change Parenting Time toolkit.
What Happens Next?
Agreement May Be Possible
In many cases, parents are able to agree to a specific parenting time schedule. If the judge approves it, it becomes part of the court order or judgment in the case.
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 to create your family's schedule. 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.
If you and the 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 the 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 widely by county. To learn more about Friend of the Court, read Friend of the Court Overview.
How the Judge Decides
To learn about what the judge will consider, read How a Judge Decides a Motion to Change Parenting Time.
If the parenting time order changes the number of overnights you have with your child, it may also affect child support. Child support is calculated using many factors, including the number of overnights each parent spends with the child. To learn more about how child support is calculated, read Child Support in a Nutshell.
What Do I Say in My Court Papers and at My Hearing?
The Do-It-Yourself Response to Motion Regarding Parenting Time tool will help you prepare your forms and guide you through what to say. For example, you will say whether you agree with the other parent’s motion, and why. If you disagree, you will explain why you think it is against the best interests of your child to change parenting time.
At your hearing or a meeting with the Friend of the Court, you will want to explain the same things that you say in your response. You will also have the chance to present evidence that supports what you say.
What If I Am 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.
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.