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Michigan Child Custody Laws

January 11, 2022 John Engman & Associates

Michigan Child Custody Laws

childrens custody

Deciding to get a divorce is a huge decision that shouldn’t be made lightly.  Nobody said marriage was easy and it is so worth it if you are both into it.  However, there are many reasons that marriage simply isn’t going to work and there isn’t any way to reconcile.  This can be a difficult time for those involved, especially those with children.  In the state of Michigan, it is encouraged that both parents stay involved in the children’s lives.  This means that the courts will advise the parents of joint custody if both parents are fit and request it.  (Mich. Comp. Laws § 722.26a (1).)  These rules might change if there is a history of domestic violence as domestic violence can affect child custody.

Can I Get Joint Custody of My Children?

Michigan tries to give joint custody in most cases to both parents.  They encourage that the relationships between the parents and the children remain close.  (Mich. Comp. Laws § 722.27a (1).)

Joint custody doesn’t mean that the child will spend exactly an equal amount of time with both parents.  It simply means that it is shared, this is what is known as physical custody.  Physical custody is the time that the child can spend with the parent.  Joint legal custody is the right to make the decisions for the child.  These decisions include childcare, school, medical treatments, religious training, and enrichment activities.

Many times the courts will award one parent physical custody with the other parent getting visitation. The visitation schedule is different for each circumstance and is usually based on what the parents want or what the friend of the court recommends.

What Is Parenting Time?

Unless parenting time would put the child in danger in some manner, both parents will have visitation. This is a time where they will spend with their children. In some rare cases, visitation will be done as supervised, where there is a third party required at the time of visits.  This can be done for a variety of reasons but typically moves to normal visitation at some point.  Children have the right to have parenting time with both parents and are encouraged to spend time with both parents.

How Does the Court Create a Parenting Time Schedule?

In most cases, the parents will come up with a schedule that will work for them and their children. Keep in mind, that this is the children’s lives too and try to do what is best for them.  Schedules such as every other night, for example, will have the children bouncing back and forth so much that they may not get the rest that they need.

Typically one parent takes the majority of the time and the other gets visitation. In some cases, the schedule is set but is also very flexible.  It is up to the parents on how they choose to co-parent.  The courts will allow just about any schedule that the parents agree upon, as long as it takes the children’s best interest into consideration.

What Does a Judge Consider When Deciding Parenting Time?

When the parents cannot come up with their own schedule, they may want to get the courts involved. This is a very lengthy and costly process that should be avoided whenever possible.  Typically a judge will ask the FOC for recommendations.  Other things that they will consider are things such as special needs of the children, if the children are still nursing or if there is any abuse that should be looked at.  They will also consider the travel time between the two homes and how that will impact the child’s life and who will do that traveling.  The actions of the parents are also a factor.  If the parent has left and hasn’t seen the child/ren in quite some time, this will be considered in court.

If you have further questions regarding parenting time, you might find the Michigan Legal help website helpful, which can be found here.

What Factors Will the Judge Consider?

You might find that you will need a judge to help you decide what is in the best interest of the child/ren.  When this happens there are many factors that the judge and FOC will look into. These include:

  • domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child
  • each parent’s willingness and ability to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents
  • The child’s reasonable preference
  • The child’s home, school, and community record
  • The parent’s and the child’s mental and physical health
  • Each parent’s moral fitness
  • The permanence of the family unit of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes
  • How long the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity
  • The ability and willingness of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and other material needs
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to give the child love, affection, and guidance, and to continue the education and raising of the child in religion or creed (if any)
  • The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between each parent and the child

Can My Child Decide Where to Live?

While they can offer a suggestion, they cannot decide solely on their own. Many times people think that this is an option for older children, however, that simply isn’t true.  The judge will take the child’s opinion into consideration but it is not a sole deciding factor.

If you have more questions, check out our FAQ for Michigan Divorces.

At John Engman & Associates, P.C., our Michigan divorce attorneys will do everything in their power to help you through this difficult time To request a consultation with one of our Grand Rapids, MI drug lawyers, give our office a call at (616) 454-5222.