Michigan Parenting Time Guidelines

Though divorce has ended a marriage, parenting remains. Children will begin to adjust and heal more readily after the trauma of divorce if cooperative parenting is established.

After divorce, one parent usually is responsible for the primary care and maintenance of the children. The other parent has parenting time with the children, time which is either defined by an order of the court or is agreed upon by both parents.

At first, time sharing for child raising may seem to complicate an already stressful situation. Divorced parents may find that their roles and expectations are undefined and cloudy. It takes time, effort, and planning on the part of parents to be able to provide a safe environment that helps children recover from the divorce and feel good about themselves. Following are some guidelines and suggestions to facilitate parenting and time sharing.

    Being Consistent

    It is crucial that parents are regular and consistent about time sharing. Children need to know that they will be made available for time sharing and picked up and returned at scheduled times. If an emergency arises that requires a change in time sharing or if parenting time will not be exercised, each parent has the responsibility of notifying the other parent as far in advance as possible.

    The children should be supplied with adequate clothing for the parenting time, and the clothing is to be returned at the end of parenting time. If the children are on medication, the medication, the dosage, and the times the medication is to be taken should be made available to the parent. Any information which pertains to the welfare of the children should be shared by parents.

    Going Between Households

    Children may complain, become withdrawn, or act out when it is time to go between the parents’ homes. A parent may believe that something negative is happening in the other parent’s home because of the children’s behavior. This behavior is usually normal and not necessarily an indication that anything is wrong. Children may be involved in an activity that they don’t want to interrupt. Children miss the parent they are not with and go through an adjustment when getting ready to leave each parent’s home. 

    Rebuilding Trust

    It is essential that divorced parents make efforts to rebuild trust between themselves. Having a degree of trust helps reduce conflicts. One way to rebuild trust is to honor agreements made between parents. Broken agreements result in anger, disappointment, resentment, and retaliation. Parents should tell each other the truth. If plans need to be changed or something of concern happens during the time the children are with a parent, the situation should be discussed calmly with the other parent. A parent should check out children’s stories with the other parent and recognize that children are not always accurate in their portrayal of events.

    Sharing And Participation In Activities

    Because of the newness of the divorce and the changes in roles, it is helpful to outline a list of specific activities for the parenting time. Choose activities that are appropriate to children’s ages and interests. Reading books together, picnics, walks, biking, cooking, games, and trips to parks, the zoo, museums, and the library are some activities. Parents may have skills to pass along to their children. Working on the care, computer, or sewing machine assists children to grow in skills and independence and share in an activity that the parent enjoys. A parent’s role does not necessarily begin and end with scheduled parenting time. The parent also may participate in parent/teacher conferences, attend school functions, help children with homework, or assist in taking the children to medical appointments and their social or sports activities.

    Participating and sharing in activities allows parents to remain involved with their children. However, both parents need to establish “normal” routines with chores, bedtimes, rules and standards for behavior, and regular meals to help children feel secure and stable.

    Solving Problems

    Parents need to communicate about parenting. When problems arise, the first impulse may be to blame the other parent. Anger and blaming are barriers that interfere with communication. Communication requires special skills and compromise. When there is a problem, parents need a plan.

    First, Ask Yourself:

    Is this a child-related problem? Bringing up problems that have to do with marriage or divorce issues of the parents is not part of the business of parenting.

    Does this problem have to do with the children’s health, education, or time sharing? Divorced parents may have to limit discussions to these three topics.

    Is a change in the time sharing schedule convenient for me only or does it accommodate the other parent or the children?

    Can the problem wait or does it need to be discussed as soon as possible?

    Make a list of the issues to be discussed and your proposals. Let it sit for a few days to see if you have any changes or need more information before arranging a meeting

    When Parents Meet For Problem Solving:

    Arrange a time and place that is convenient for both parents.

    Limit discussion time to 30 minutes. When discussion time goes longer, emotions may get out of hand.

    Only cover a few issues in one session. Start with the easy problems and move on to the more difficult.

    Be specific about what you mean. Set ground rules that there will be on personal attacks or name calling.

    If you disagree, look for ways that each parent can give a little.

    Write down any agreements you make and make sure that each of you has a copy.

    Once a decision is made, put it away and don’t try to re-think it.

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