Republican lawmaker proposes changes to child custody in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WILX)- Changes could be coming to Michigan's child custody laws. State Representative Jim Runestad, (R-White Lake), wants to change how much time children spend with their parents.

He has introduced a house bill that would require courts in Michigan to grant divorcing parents joint legal custody and equal parenting time. One parent would get no more than 200 overnight visits a year unless both sides agreed to it.

At a town hall meeting last night in Grand Rapids, Runestad said how much time a parent gets varies too much and unless there is domestic violence or other issues, the parenting time needs to be equal. “Breaking that bond and divorcing one of the parents down to 20, 15 percent (time spent with their child) is devastating for children,” Runestad said.

Critics include those who work in the family courts and say the legislation would shift the focus from the child's best interest to the parent's best interest. "Here, we can't even ask the question, we can't even look at it, said Kent County Family Court Judge T.J. Ackert. "It's simply determined from the get-go, We're concerned that this is too much of a dramatic change and throws out 40 years of law."

If Runestad's bill is passed, the law would be changed to the "Michigan Shared Parenting Act". The legislation has already passed the House Judiciary Committee. It has not yet passed the house as a whole.