How are Custody Rights Determined in Michigan?

The state of Michigan believes custody shall be granted according to “the best interest of the child.” The court often encourages couples to work out their own arrangements for custody when there is a divorce or a separation in mind, however, when this is not possible, a judge must decide the issue based on a list that is designed to help determine what is in the best interest of the child.

“Best Interests of the Child” means the sum total of the following factors to be considered, evaluated, and determined by the Court when custody is an issue:

a.)The love, affection and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child;

b.)The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection and guidance and continuation of the educating  and raising of the child in its religion or creed, if any;

c.)The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care and other material needs;

d.)The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;

e.)The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes;

f.)The moral fitness of the parties involved;

g.)The mental and physical health of the parties involved;

h.)The home, school and community record of the child;

i.)The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express preference;

j.)The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent;

k.)Any other factors considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.

Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody

In Michigan, the law distinguishes between legal and physical custody and does not always require they go hand-in-hand. The parent awarded legal custody has the right to make decisions about the child’s life, including education, medical treatment and religious upbringing. Physical custody means actually having the child physically present and living with you.

Joint Custody and Sole Custody

Also, in Michigan the law distinguishes between Joint Custody and Sole Custody.  When a parent is awarded the sole physical and sole legal custody of the child, this means that the other parent has no legal right to make parental decisions regarding the child’s upbringing nor do they have the right to have the child with him or her. However, they may exercise a parenting time schedule.   

Joint custody on the other hand, can mean different things in different situations. Generally, a joint custody arrangement allows both parents to share legal and physical custody of their children, where both parties are involved in the decision-making for their children and typically share equal time with their children.

Parenting Time

Parenting time is generally granted to the non-custodial parent.  Each county has specific parenting time guidelines that can be accessed through the county Friend of the Court.  The order of the court may be as specific or as general as the parties can agree.   Parenting time often depends upon a number of factors including, the parent’s work schedules, the age of the children, the living distance between the parents, the children’s school schedules, extracurricular activities, holidays, and summer vacation. 

Selecting an experienced attorney is crucial when dealing with highly emotional and personal legal issues such as child support, custody, and separation. The Law Offices of Gerkin and Decker, P.C. are highly experienced lawyers who have worked with both men and women facing family law issues. Divorce can be stressful and life changing, working with a professional lawyer is crucial to make sure your legal rights are protected. If you're looking for an experienced child custody lawyer, contact Gerkin & Decker, PC Brighton today. From probate lawyers to child custody attorneys, we have a wide variety of legal services to assist you and your needs. 

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