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Michigan Shared Parenting Bill Could Get Another Look


A bill to support shared custody arrangements following divorce stalled in the Michigan legislature last year, but could very well have new life in 2019.

A last minute push wasn’t enough to get the Michigan Shared Parenting Act across the goal line last year. The bill, sponsored by former state representative Jim Runestad (R), would generally require judges to award joint custody to parents after a divorce. Judges faced with custody decisions are currently obligated to weigh a number of factors designed to gauge the “best interests” of the child involved.

The legislation would make joint custody of the child the default situation. That means divorcing parents would “share decision-making authority as to the important decisions affecting the child’s welfare and well-being, including the child’s health care, education, and religion.” The bill would also generally impose “substantially equal parenting time,” meaning that the child would alternate time with each parent in a way that is balanced, according to the legislation.

To support shared parenting arrangements, the legislation would ban one parent from moving more than 80 miles away. It would also require judges to take the child’s wishes into account in cases involving children over the age of 16.

The measure would additionally give judges the right to grant sole custody to one parent in certain circumstances. That includes situations in which there is credible evidence of domestic violence by the other parent.

The bill’s supporters have called the proposed move long overdue. They cite studies showing that children benefit from having a substantial relationship with both parents.

Runestad has since been elected to the state senate. He’s yet to reintroduce the legislation in that chamber.

Often there is a great benefit for children to spend equal or nearly equal time with both parents.  However, not every family is the same. There are many families where one parent has shown no interest in the child, has mental health problems preventing him or her to parent the child or simply doesn’t have the living situation that would allow the parent to care for one or more children.  To “rubber-stamp” a joint custody arrangement for such parents would be unjust and harmful to the children. 

Similarly, with the proposed legislation, when one parent wishes to obtain sole custody of the child, such a parent has only one option available to accomplish that:  pursue false abuse allegations.  Such false allegations hurt the co-parenting relationship, significantly increase the financial and emotional cost of the litigation, and will greatly hurt the minor children.

Even so, there are many equally caring fathers and mothers who should not have to spend the time, energy, and financial resources to obtain something so basic as equal time with the children. 

Speak with a Grand Rapids Child Custody Attorney

Child custody disputes can be difficult, stressful situations that raise complicated legal questions about what’s in the best interests of the child or children involved. Although divorcing spouses can make things easier on everyone involved by coming up with their own custody and parenting agreements, that’s not always possible in every case.

If you are a parent who’s considering separating or getting a divorce, it’s imperative that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced family law attorney. A seasoned lawyer will help you understand your rights and options and help you ensure that your voice is heard in court and at the negotiating table.

The Grand Rapids child custody attorneys Kraayeveld Law have been assisting clients throughout the area in divorce, child custody, and other family law matters for more than a quarter of a century. Our lawyers combine decades of experience in complex matters to help people efficiently untangle their marriages.

We are conveniently located in Grand Rapids. Call 616-285-0808 or contact us online to make an appointment to speak with a Grand Rapids divorce lawyer about your situation.