On December 12, 2017, in the case of Ludwig v. Ludwing, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued an opinion for publication which is a pretty big deal. Unlike an unpublished opinion which is advisory, published opinions must be followed by every trial court in Michigan. The opinion determined that Court ordered therapy between a parent and child does not alter or modify parenting time.
The Ludwig case involved a father with some serious mental health issues and his struggles to see his children. The facts are unique and are summarized below.
Background of leading to the Court ordered therapy
- Mr. & Ms. Ludwig were married in 1994. They had three children.
- In 2008, the mother filed for divorce and requested a psychological evaluation of the father based on serious allegations.
- During the divorce, the trial court ordered a psychological evaluation on both the mother and the father.
The first psychological evaluation – (not really court ordered therapy)
- Both parties underwent a psychological evaluation and the father’s outcome was poor.
- The parties divorced in 2009 with the mother being granted sole legal and physical custody of the minor children.
- The father was granted supervised parenting time with the minor children.
Sometimes things don’t get better.
- At some point in 2009, the mother obtained a Personal Protection Order against the father and a second Personal Protection Order in 2010.
- Father joined the army and was deployed overseas, returning in 2011 and began living in Texas apparently without seeing the children since before he was deployed.
- Upon his return father requested supervised parenting time once again without success.
- Around the same time period, the father was found in violation of the 2010 Personal Protection Order.
Father keeps trying.
- In 2013, the father requested supervised parenting time, claiming he had been attending therapy regularly in Texas.
- The mother argued that parenting time for the father (even supervised) would not be in the best interest of the children.
The second psychological evaluation.
- The trial court ordered a second psychological evaluation and the father.
- During the evaluation, the father was diagnosed with persecutory type delusionial disorder. Which is a delusional disorder when the delusions involves the person’s belief that he or she is being conspired against, cheated, spied on, etc.
- The psychologist noted that the father’s prognosis was poor.
The Court ordered therapy.
- In September 2016, the trial court ordered the father to participate in therapy with a PhD. psychologist.
- By January of 2016, father had completed 12 therapy sessions with the Court ordered psychologist.
- The court ordered psychologist recommended the trial court begin reunification with the father and his children.
More Court ordered therapy (now with the children).
- On January 23, 2017, the trial court entered an opinion that the father satisfactorily completed with the substantial hoops and provided for court ordered therapy for the minor children and the father to begin the reunification process which a future review for parenting time.
- The mother appealed the trial court’s order stating that Court ordered therapy was a modification of parenting time.
The Court of Appeals decided that Court ordered therapy between a parent and child does not modify parenting time. Had the Court of Appeals decided that Court ordered therapy modified parenting time, the father would have had to meet the requirements to modify parenting time.
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By: Daniel Findling