By Jennifer M. Paine
Attorney, Cordell & Cordell, P.C., Detroit office
In the second part of our series on dealing with common divorce problems, we’ll look at some creative solutions for:
- How will I know my kids are safe?
- What if my spouse will nit-pick every parenting time problem?
How creative can you be?
How Will I Know My Kids Are Safe?
If you have ever lost sleep wondering how to keep your children safe during your ex’s parenting time, you are not alone. This is, hands down, the most common parenting time question. Call it parental instinct, loss of control or plain distrust, parents do not like the reality that they cannot be there every minute of parenting time restoring harmony like a graceful dove — they look like pesky pigeons instead. Nevertheless, you can negotiate a parenting time plan that includes protective provisions. Consider these provisions, which you can enforce in most states with a contempt motion:
For transportation: Each party should be responsible for providing and paying for transportation during that party’s parenting time. If necessary and due to reasonable work schedule conflicts or unavoidable and reasonable personal schedule conflicts, the party may select another properly licensed adult known to the child to provide transportation. The party must personally give advance notice to the other party when possible, and the party will have a first right of refusal to provide transportation instead.
For parenting time pick-up and drop-off delays: Parenting time must be exercised in a prompt manner. If necessary due to an emergency or a reasonable schedule conflict, a thirty minute delay is allowed. The delayed party must personally give advance notice to the other party when possible.
For communicating with your children during parenting time: Each party must provide the other party with a phone contact where the children and the party can be reached at all times during parenting time. The parties may not abuse phone contact privileges but may call the children at reasonable times.
For parenting time modifications: The parties should be encouraged to make arrangements to exchange parenting time to allow the children to attend special events and activities with extended family members and to cooperate with each other to allow the children to spend such other time with the other party as the children desire. However, where applicable for purposes of calculating child support, only ordered overnights will be considered.
What If My Spouse Will Nit-Pick Every Parenting Time Problem?
Post-divorce parenting time litigation is a nightmare, and an expensive one featuring police reports, successive court motions, photographs and a deluge of he said/she said testimony. Maybe your soon to-be-ex brings a tape recorder and her mother to every parenting time exchange, in her words “Just in case.” (“In case what?” you think, baffled.) Maybe your spouse locks her front door and refuses to let you pick up your children because you are fifteen minutes late. (Thank you, traffic pile up on I-60.) Or maybe your spouse is so bent on following every word in your order, verbatim, that she has multiple copies highlighted and tabbed and can recite provisions from heart.
Whatever the reason, if you fear you will litigate parenting time problems unnecessarily post-divorce, consider negotiating an informal dispute resolution agreement. The limits to your creativity depend on the laws in your state. For example, in Michigan, families can agree to attend family law mediation, but not if either party alleges or there has been a history of domestic violence between the parties or either party and the children. Contact your attorney or your court clerk to learn what informal dispute resolutions services are available to you.
Then, include them in a provision like this: The parties are encouraged to use the informal enforcement, mediation and counseling resources at X [name your place] to resolve any problems with parenting time before filing a motion for contempt, a motion to show cause or other formal motion, unless warranted by the circumstances and laws at the time, with this Court. Either party may cite this provision to compel the other party to use these resources in the event the party files a motion with this Court first.
Remember, divorce courts do enforce property settlement agreements even if they would not have crafted them at trial, and divorce courts routinely allow unique parenting time plans if the parents agree the plans are in their children’s best interests. See, e.g. Hamilton v Hamilton,647 So 2d 756; 1994 Ala Civ App LEXIS 441 (1994). Therefore, get creative with your settlement options.
Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.