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Bloomfield Family Law Blog

What is parenting time?

If you are a Michigan resident contemplating divorce, one of your biggest concerns undoubtedly is the amount of time your children will spend with each parent after your divorce. As the Oakland County Friend of the Court explains, this is called parenting time.

Michigan law regarding parenting time is nonspecific in nature, and you and your spouse are encouraged to cooperate with each other and develop your own parenting time schedules, taking into consider the following things:

  • Your child’s age
  • Your child’s school schedule
  • Each parent’s work schedule
  • How far away you and your ex-spouse live from each other

What can and can't you use child support payments on?

Divorced parents in Michigan like you will likely be receiving some form of child support payment. These payments are specifically meant to help you make up the difference when it comes to the lost income that your ex-spouse was bringing into the family. It is designed for use on your child. So what exactly can and can't child support payments be used for?

HuffPost states that many extracurricular activities are not budgeted into child support payments, even if they enrich or enhance your child's life. These little extras may seem important, but are unfortunately likely going to be left up to you to handle. They can include things like:

  • Photobooks or yearbooks
  • Musical instruments or lessons
  • All related expenses for sports
  • College funds
  • Private lessons
  • Tutors

How custody is decided when parents cannot agree

Michigan courts recognize that divorce is an emotional period for everyone in the family. They also know that matters can become heated between parents who are soon to be ex-spouses and sometimes, agreeing on anything seems impossible. That is why family law is structured to uphold the best interests of the child.

According to state law, courts encourage families to work out custody and visitation issues for themselves. But make no mistake: It is the court that has final say in these and other matters involving minors caught up in a divorce.

How is child custody determined in different divorce situations?

When faced with having to make decisions about child custody, Michigan parents like you will have a lot of options to sort through. Will you have joint custody? What will your visitation schedule look like? This is where professionals like Lisa Stern can step in, helping you decide which options would be the best for you, and most importantly, for your child.

First of all, your options for custody arrangements will often depend on the makeup of your family. For example, unmarried parents who are splitting up will have a different set of hurdles to cross than parents who have been married and are getting a divorce. LGBTQ couples will also have their own set of problems to sort through. If grandparents are involved, this can create more unusual situations. All of these scenarios must be addressed individually.

How can you keep your family together after relocating?

Divorced Michigan parents may not always want or be able to stay in the same location after a divorce. This is where the expertise of Lisa Stern can benefit you. We can help you look through the possible problems that can result from a post-divorce relocation, and the tools you can use to combat them.

When examining your reasons to relocate, a judge will first check to make sure that the strain it puts on the relationship between your child and their other family members won't be too great. Naturally, this includes your ex-spouse, though it can also refer to other siblings or family members that you might be leaving behind. In these scenarios, wanting to move for the express purpose of creating distance is theoretically not going to be allowed. However, there are cases in which your intentions might be good but there's still the issue of creating distance. What can you do in those cases to keep your family together?

Study: Divorce can be passed down genetically

As many Michigan parents know, studies have shown that children of divorce are more likely to divorce themselves. A new study found that this is not due to modeling the behavior of parents as many previously believed, and is instead genetic.

As Science Daily reports, an analysis of the Swedish national registry found that adoptive children's marriages were more likely to resemble the marriages of their biological parents, rather than the adoptive parents who raised them. This surprised researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University and Sweden's Lund University, as prior studies have suggested that children are mimicking their parents' behavior in their own relationships, which can include issues with commitment or difficulty handling conflict. Their findings flip the traditional script, and researchers believe that their study could help marriage counselors to focus not only on conflict and commitment but also look at other personality factors that may be passed down, and which have been shown to lead to divorce, such as neuroticism.

Studies find shared custody best for children

In Michigan when a couple with children decides to divorce a primary concern is determining what the custody arrangement will be. New studies have found that barring an abusive situation, joint custody splitting the child's time evenly between parents turns out best for the child.

As Science Daily reports, a study in Sweden found that even very young children benefit from shared custody. Preschool children between the ages of three and five were the subjects of the study and their parents and teachers were given a survey to fill out regarding the children's development. More than 3,000 preschoolers participated in the research, which found that both parents and teachers of students who live exclusively or primarily with one parent reported more psychological and behavioral problems than children who alternated living with both parents or children whose parents were still together. There was no difference in reporting issues from parents who had joint custody or who remained together, but teachers reported slightly more issues for children in shared-custody arrangements.

What does the “best interests of the child” mean?

Most parents believe they have a pretty good idea of those things that are in the best interests of their children. They are probably right. However, in Michigan, as with many states, there is an articulable standard outlined by the legislature regarding what constitutes the “best interests of the child” for purposes of child custody.

According to the Michigan Legislature, the best interests of the child standard is the “sum total” of 11 specific factors. Each factor is reviewed by the court. These matters also help the parties to understand their responsibilities under the law. Such understanding can assist with planning and preparing for divorce and custody issues.

Pets and divorce: who wins?

When most Michigan residents think of divorce, the first aspects to come that mind are likely estate divisions, child support and alimony guidelines. Yet what happens to pets owned by couples going through divorce? 

Deciding arrangements for children of divorce can have its own set of complications; one might assume that dealing with pets would be a much simpler process. And while pets are legally considered property instead of members of the family, many officials have introduced proposals regarding pet custody. Just as court systems largely focus on the best interest of children, lawmakers and advocacy groups have revisited the aspect of pets in cases of divorce by stressing that the legal system should act in the best interests of pets, as well.

Supporting kids' emotional health during divorce

As a parent, the emotional well-being of your children is generally top of mind. When you and your spouse have made the choice to end your marriage, it is only natural that you would then be concerned for your kids' health and feelings. While a parental divorce can be upsetting for children, there are ways you can help them and support them emotionally during and after the process. 

The American Psychological Association explains that, barring circumstances like those involving abuse, maintaining strong relationships with both parents is important for kids. As a parent you can help support your kids' ongoing relationship with their other parent by always speaking positively of that parent. Similarly, you should work to avoid speaking negatively about or to your former spouse if the kids are within earshot or visual range.

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