When your co-parent is incarcerated, your custody order may provide you with sole legal and physical custody. However, many Michigan custody orders allow a child to have some type of visitation with an incarcerated parent.
Maintaining a relationship with an incarcerated parent can be beneficial
While you may have concerns about your child seeing their other parent in a jail or prison facility, not allowing your child to see the parent could have negative effects. Children who are cut off from having a relationship with a parent often experience feelings of loss or abandonment.
Your child’s development could be better served by allowing them visits with the other parent. The chance to maintain a relationship can be valuable for both the child and incarcerated parent.
Do not speak poorly about your incarcerated co-parent to your child
Therefore, although you most likely have unpleasant feelings about whatever events resulted in your co-parent’s incarceration, do not express these to your child.
Always speak respectfully about your co-parent, and do not use their incarceration to keep your child away from them or engage in parental alienation. This is especially true if you have a custody order that allows visitation time. You must follow the order.
Helpful tips for how to handle the visits
Once you have decided to allow visits, prepare your child before the visits begin. Talk to them about when they will see the parent and how often.
Make sure they understand that they will be visiting their parent at a building with strict rules about contact and security, and that they must follow these rules.
Do not make jail or prison sound like a scary, horrible place that their parent is stuck in. Your child may have a certain impression of what these places are like from what they have seen or heard.
However, your child may still feel uncomfortable or unsafe at the facility. Develop a sign or method of communication your child can use to alert you if they would like to end the visit.
Having an incarcerated co-parent can make your custody situation more complex and challenging than most. Working with a custody attorney can help you figure out the best ways to navigate your situation.