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FAMILY LAW 73: The judgment of divorce included two alternative parenting-time provisions.

The parties married in 2013 while in Florida. Plaintiff was originally from Michigan, and defendant was originally from New Jersey. The child, JV, was born in 2014. The parties separated approximately one year later. The Florida courts granted the parties’ divorce in 2015.

Two Alternative Parenting-Time Provisions

The judgment of divorce provided that both parties shall share in making major decisions for the minor child. Major decisions were to include decisions involving childcare providers, schools, medical providers, and nonemergency medical treatment. The judgment of divorce also included two alternative parenting-time provisions. The first parenting-time provision would operate if the parties lived within 20 miles of each other, in which case each parent would receive two overnights a week and alternating weekends with JV. Alternatively, if the parties did not live within 20 miles of each other, defendant would generally receive two weekends a month with JV. The judgment also divided holidays. The judgment provided that plaintiff could relocate JV to Michigan, and it expressed the belief that defendant would also relocate to Michigan.

Plaintiff promptly moved to Michigan with JV to live with her family. The parties continued to engage in mutually antagonistic communications. At some point, defendant purportedly acquired a residence in Michigan. But defendant actually continued to physically reside in Florida, at least in part, and it is not clear whether his Michigan residence ever even existed.

Sole Legal Custody

In May 2020, plaintiff moved for sole legal custody. In response to a motion for make-up parenting time filed by defendant, plaintiff contended that she was entitled to make-up parenting time, premised mostly on the allegation that defendant fraudulently claimed he resided in Michigan during 2018 and 2019. Plaintiff asserted that the parties’ communication difficulties about school, extracurricular activities, and the child’s medical care established that they could not communicate or agree about major life decisions affecting the child.

Friend of the Court

In June 2020, following a hearing, a Friend of the Court referee issued a report and proposed order. The referee determined that proper cause did not warrant revisiting the child’s custody because, although plaintiff had established that the parties had a history of communication issues, there was no evidence that their disagreements affected the child’s well-being. The referee opined that their problems could be resolved by a stable parenting schedule. The referee noted that the existing parenting-time order lacked clarity, and it proposed to modify parenting time to provide more structure. At the hearing, the parties agreed to a parenting schedule, and the trial court ordered the parties to communicate through Our Family Wizard except in cases of emergency.

Assistance With Custody

Aldrich Legal Services understands how important your relationship with your children is, which is why we will work hard to protect your rights and help you achieve a positive outcome.

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