Modification of Custody or Parenting Time under Michigan Family Law

Our Metro Detroit Family Law firm gets many phone calls from parents each week about changing their custody and parenting time orders. Often people do not follow the court order as to parenting time or custody, but never change it with the court. Other people call because they believe they are entitled to more parenting time or the other parent is not treating the child right during the visitation. The main reasons people call about parenting time issues are because the schedule is not working, there is no schedule at all or the order states there shall be “liberal and reasonable visitation” and the parties are having constant arguments over visitation. The court only speaks through it’s written orders. It is important to know that if you and the other party change the order on your own, that you need to have an order drafted, signed by the parties and the judge to have that order have any binding effect.If you want to change custody or parenting time and the other party is not willing to agree to a stipulated order, then you must file a motion with the court. Michigan family law allows you to ask the court to modify a custody or visitation order at any time, but you must show a “change in circumstances.” What does this mean?

A trial court may not modify an existing custody order unless “it first finds that the moving party has demonstrated proper cause or a change in circumstances.” Spires v Bergman,276 Mich App 432, 444-445 n 4; 741 NW2d 523 (2007), citing MCL 722.27(1)(c). The moving party bears the burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that either proper cause or a change in circumstances exists before the trial court will reconsider the existing custody order. Vodvarka v. Grasmeyer, 259 Mich. App. 499 (2003).

A”change in circumstances” occurs when “the conditions surrounding custody of the child, which have or could have a significant effect on the child’s well-being, have materially changed” since the entry of the last custody order.

Not just any change will suffice, for over time there will always be some changes in a child’s environment, behavior, and well-being. Instead, the evidence must demonstrate that something more than normal life changes (both good and bad) that occur during the life of a child, and there must be at least some evidence that the material changes have had or will almost certainly have an effect on the child.

The court will look to the “best interests of the children” before it decides to change custody or parenting time.

It is very important to consult a Michigan family law attorney for custody and parenting time issues. This should be done well in advance of any court date.

If you have questions about changing custody or parenting time orders, call our Michigan family law attorneys for a free initial consultation.