(1) Parenting time shall be granted in accordance with the best interests of the child. 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. Except as otherwise provided in this section, parenting time shall be granted to a parent in a frequency, duration, and type reasonably calculated to promote a strong relationship between the child and the parent granted parenting time…(3) A child has a right to parenting time with a parent unless it is shown on the record by clear and convincing evidence that it would endanger the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health. (Emphasis mine.)
Those are two subsections of the Michigan Child Custody Act of 1970, subchapter 722.27a, section 7a. According to this article, they’re not well known although I can’t imagine why they’re not (Detroit News, 8/11/10). But every Michigan parent who’s involved in a child custody case should be aware that (a) your child has a right to parenting time, (b) the law presumes strong parent-child relationships to be in the child’s best interests and (c) parenting time shall be granted so as to promote that strong parent-child relationship.
The article quotes William Reisdorf of Dads and Moms Legal Group asking
“Do you think a parent seeing his child [only] every other weekend is going to ‘promote a strong relationship with the child?”
Reisdorf has asked that question many times in many situations of many different people including the notorious Friend of Court and no one has ever said ‘yes.’ In other words, no one’s ever made the case that the standard visitation order “promote[s] a strong relationship between the child and the parent.” Does that suggest anything to anyone? It should.
Reisdorf’s data on the issue may be anecdotal, but he’s backed up by plenty of sociology on the subject. I’ve discussed Susan Stewart’s study of non-custodial parents before. She found that those parents tend over time to become what she called “Disneyland Dads,” i.e. mere entertainers of their children.
Think about it; what important parenting decisions does a parent who sees his/her child only every other week make? It’s the custodial parent who talks to the teachers, goes to the appointments with doctors, helps with homework, etc. The simple fact that “visitation” frequently occurs on weekends means that it happens at a time the child tends to consider “off” time. That’s hardly conducive to serious interaction; it’s much more conducive to entertainment and, according to Stewart and others, that’s exactly what it turns out to be.
And the very unseriousness of non-custodial parent-child relationships means that, over time, they tend to break down even more. Both parent and child understand the relationship is less than it should be, so it’s easy for it to become less and less frequent. Why would it be otherwise? That too is one of Stewart’s findings.
And it doesn’t matter if the NC parent is Mom or Dad; the same things tend to hold true for both sexes, and neither moms nor dads like it. As fathers have become more assertive about getting custody, websites for non-custodial mothers have sprung up and – surprise, surprise – their complaints are very much like those of NC dads. Why wouldn’t they be? It’s the same system of family laws with the same results.
Reisdorf urges parents in Michigan
[W]hen you go to a Michigan Family Court on custody or parenting time issues, your attorney needs to develop a strategy taken from the Michigan Parenting Time statute; it is a powerful tool you can use to ensure your child’s best interest is truly being served.
That’s good advice. Into the bargain, other states should follow Michigan’s Parenting Time law toward the promised land of children with two parents post-divorce instead of just one.