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Counseling, Therapy and Parenting Time

It is in the best interest of a child to have a strong relationship with both of his or her parents however, the right to parenting time is not absolute… yes, that is Michigan law.  The Court has a broad range of “tools” to protect the “best interest” and safety of minor children.  Counseling and therapy is one of the most important “tools” the Court uses to tailor certain requirements before a parent can have parenting time.

It is in the best interest of a child to have a strong relationship with both of his or her parents however, the right to parenting time is not absolute… yes, that is Michigan law.  The Court has a broad range of “tools” to protect the “best interest” and safety of minor children.  Counseling and therapy is one of the most important “tools” the Court uses to tailor certain requirements before a parent can have parenting time.

In a recent Oakland County case, after psychological evaluations of both parents, the Court ordered supervised parenting time for the father.  After the Judgment of Divorce was entered, the Court suspended the father’s parenting time after he violated a Personal Protection Order.  The father moved out of state for a few years (actually he joined the Army and was deployed overseas).  When the father returned, he requested unsupervised parenting time, but the Court ordered that he submit to a new evaluation with an agreed upon psychologist.  Eighteen months later, the father returned to Court with a psychological evaluation from a different psychologist, but the Court did not accept that evaluation and required he submit to an evaluation by another psychologist.  The father was diagnosed with a delusion disorder which required therapy with yet another psychologist.

Despite his significant issues, the father still wanted parenting time with his children.  After many sessions of therapy, the treating psychologist recommended that the Court begin the reunification process between the father and his children.  After a hearing, the Court agreed that the reunification process should begin and ordered that the children shall participate with a therapist for 45 days; that after 60 days, a reunification video conference will take place with the father, the children, their therapist and the father’s psychologist; that the children’s therapist would determine the best continued contact for the children; and after six months, the Friend of the Court would  review the matter and determine if a change in parenting time should be considered.

The mother appealed the Court’s decision and the Michigan Court of Appeals said that the Court did not change the parenting time (which had been suspended) and that the use of the psychologists, therapists, video conferencing involving the psychologist and therapist was not parenting time.  Moreover, no decision was made on parenting time and that any request to change parenting time would only occur after the Friend of the Court reviewed the matter and that a full hearing would take place before any change would take place, i.e. before the father would get any form of parenting time.

The “moral” of this legal story is that before the Court orders parenting time, there are protections for both parents and the minor children.

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