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December 20, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The Michigan divorce bar continues with its slipshod opposition to shared parenting (Hometown Life, 12/17/17).  Diana Raimi writes regarding H.B. 4691:

It could have retroactive effect, opening the door for thousands of parents to return to court for another trial long after their cases concluded.

No, that’s not a “retroactive effect.”  It’s in the nature of custody proceedings.  As Raimi and every other divorce lawyer in Michigan knows, family court judges maintain continuing jurisdiction over the cases they decide.  They do so because child custody and support orders are ongoing; they require certain behavior of the parents, not just once, but again and again over several years.  As such, they may be modified, so a judge who issues a “final order” in a divorce case may find him/herself listening to the same lawyers and the same parents trying to alter that order.  So courts have continuing jurisdiction.

If H.B. 4691 becomes law, parents will have the right to revisit their orders if they think the change in the law might require a change in them.  And of course, that’s exactly what we want them to do.  After all, if the legislature changes the law in favor of shared parenting, don’t we want parents to seek exactly that?  Don’t we want them to act in accordance with public policy?  Surely we do, but Raimi and Gornbein are so desperate to oppose shared parenting and so lacking in real arguments against it that they come up with the claim of “retroactive effect.”

It provides a powerful “bargaining chip” for domestic abusers to control and intimidate their spouses or partners, using the children as pawns in the process.

Utterly and obviously untrue.  As with every similar bill, H.B. 4691 maintains already-existing exceptions for domestic/child abuse.  The bill requires a court to order equal or nearly-equal parenting time,

UNLESS THE PARENTS CONSENT TO ANOTHER AGREEMENT OR 1 PARENT DEMONSTRATES BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE 1 OF THE FOLLOWING:

 (A) THE CHILD HAS BEEN EXPOSED TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THE VIOLENCE WAS DIRECTED AGAINST OR WITNESSED BY THE CHILD, INCLUDING VIOLENCE THE CHILD MAY BE EXPOSED TO BY A FAMILY MEMBER OR AN UNRELATED PERSON WHOM THE PARENT ALLOWS TO HAVE CONTACT WITH THE CHILD.

(B) THE CHILD WOULD LIKELY BE SUBJECTED TO CHILD ABUSE OR 6 CHILD NEGLECT AS THOSE TERMS ARE DEFINED IN SECTION 2 OF THE CHILD 7 PROTECTION LAW, 1975 PA 238, MCL 722.622.

It’s there in black and white.  Raimi and Gornbein aren’t telling the truth.

It ignores the reality of the child’s experience in deciding a parenting schedule, focusing instead on parent-centered factors like financial contributions.

I actually have no idea of what this means, if anything.  First, parents are at all times free and encouraged to make their own arrangements for parenting time.  Second, if a child is old enough, courts are required to listen to their preferences about custody and parenting time.  Third, pages 4 – 6 of the bill contain a long list of items to be considered by judges in evaluating a child’s best interests and therefore parenting time.  Last, one of those items is this:

(xi) (l) Any other factor considered by the court THAT MAY MATERIALLY COMPROMISE THE STABILITY OF THE HOME OR THE HEALTH, SAFETY, OR WELL-BEING OF THE CHILD.

In short, judges are in no way hamstrung by this bill and are certainly not required to “ignore the reality of the child’s experience,” to the extent that means something.

As to H.B. 4691 “focusing on factors like financial contributions,” I truly can’t guess what Raimi is talking about.  Suffice it to say that there is no such focus in the bill.  The phrase looks more like random mutterings than any sort of principled criticism of the bill.

It gives unrelated roommates, or live-in boyfriends or girlfriends, the same rights as parents when a military parent is deployed — even if that person would normally never have the right to ask for parenting time.

OK, this one actually has some merit.  Yes, it’s written in rather lurid language and no it doesn’t give those individuals “the same rights as parents,” but the section could be improved.  Here’s what Raimi’s referring to:

IN ORDER TO ENSURE AND MAINTAIN THE ESTABLISHED CUSTODIAL ENVIRONMENT AND STABILITY FOR THE CHILD, THE PARENT ON DEPLOYMENT MAY DESIGNATE A THIRD PARTY WHO MAY EXERCISE THE DEPLOYED PARENT'S PARENTING TIME WHILE THAT PARENT IS ON DEPLOYMENT.

Now clearly, that section is meant to refer to, for example, a step-parent, a grandparent, etc.  But it’s not limited to those and should be changed to allow a parent to object to the substitute person designated by the deployed parent.  That way a judge can decide whether the person is an appropriate alternative.

Having embarrassed themselves by blatantly attempting to mislead readers with what they did say, it’s appropriate to note what Raimi and Gornbein didn’t say.  Nowhere do they mention the science that overwhelmingly supports shared parenting.  Nowhere do they mention the almost entire absence of any science to the contrary.  Nowhere do they mention the terrible problem of fatherless children or how family courts contribute to it.  Nowhere do they mention states like Arizona, Utah and Kentucky that have laws encouraging shared parenting and yet report no ill effects thereof.  And nowhere do they mention the 84% of Michiganders who, in a recent survey, said they support a change in the law in favor of shared parenting.

Naturally, there’s a reason for those omissions.  Raimi and Gornbein, like Schaefer before them, haven’t a leg to stand on.  Their opposition to shared parenting is not only a matter of naked self-interest, but also one in support of which they have no principled argument.  So they make unprincipled ones.  After all, without parents at each others’ throats, how’ll the lawyers make their Lexus payments?

 

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National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#sharedparenting, #child'sbestinterests, #Michigan, #H.B.4691

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