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Shared parenting and the “friendly parent” concept

In our last post, we spoke briefly about the issue of shared parenting or joint custody, and the potential benefits to children of these arrangements. One point we’ve noted about Michigan law is that it does not explicitly encourage shared parenting, even though studies have clearly shown how children can benefit. This is seen the fact that state law does not explicitly provide for the possibility of shared parenting on a temporary order, though it may still be available in some situations, and in the fact that there is no preference expressed for shared parenting in final custody orders.

One of the big challenges, of course, with shared parenting is that parents are not always able to come to a mutually acceptable shared custody agreement. While it takes two to tango in reaching a custody agreement, it can sometimes happen that one parent makes it harder to reach an agreement than the other. Many states have laws directing family court judges to take this fact into account. This is known as the “friendly parent” factor. 

Here in Michigan, the friendly parent factor is supposed to be taken into consideration when determining the best interests of the child. The statute specifically talks about the “willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage of close and continuing parent-child relationship” between the child and the other parent. This, of course, is important for making joint custody arrangements work. Without both parents agreeing to make shared parenting work, it will not happen.

Although the best interests of the child is the root issue judges consider when determining custody, there is no relative degree of importance the Michigan statute assigns to the friendly parent factor. Although judges have wide discretion when it comes to making custody awards, it does help to work with an experienced advocate to make sure that the friendly parent factor is given due consideration during the process. 

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Shared parenting and the “friendly parent” concept | Peter A D'Angelo, Attorney at Law, PLC