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How Is Child Custody Determined in Michigan?

JRB Law PLLC Oct. 24, 2023

Divorced parents with their son visiting lawyerBefore a divorce can be finalized in Michigan, couples who have children are often required to create child custody arrangements for their kids. The purpose of the child custody agreement is to determine the rights and responsibilities of each parent, where the child will stay, and how crucial decisions about the child will be made. However, when a divorce is contested, the Michigan court may be called upon to determine child custody and parenting time based on the child's best interests and overall welfare. 

Attorney John Bailey has the resources to advise and guide clients in divorce and child custody-related matters. He's available to discuss your unique situation and enlighten you about how to determine child custody and parenting time. As an experienced Michigan family law attorney, John can strive to uphold your rights, represent you diligently throughout the legal process, and help you achieve a favorable child custody agreement. The firm proudly serves clients across Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Belleville, Portage, and Kalamazoo, Michigan. 

Child Custody in Michigan

In a marital dissolution between couples with minor children, the separating or divorcing parents must establish a reasonable child custody agreement to determine each party's roles, rights, and responsibilities. In the state of Michigan, child custody will determine the parent with physical custody and legal decision-making authority about the child. 

Legal and Physical Custody 

It’s important to understand the difference between legal custody and physical custody in Michigan. Essentially, physical custody involves the children's living arrangements. The child will live with the parent who has physical custody. In addition, the parent who has physical custody will prepare meals, bathe the child, take the child to school, and care for the child on a daily basis. 

Legal custody involves having the right and decision to make vital decisions about the children. Generally, the parent who has legal custody will make decisions about the child's schooling, education, religious upbringing, medical and dental care, extracurricular activities, and joining the military. 

Sole and Joint Custody 

Furthermore, child custody may be sole or joint. In sole custody, only one parent will have the exclusive legal and physical custody rights to the child. As a result, only the custodial parent can make the living arrangements and other vital decisions concerning the child. In these instances, the court will typically award parenting time or visitation rights to the other parent (non-custodial parent). 

In joint custody, both parents will share the physical and legal custody rights. Hence, both parents will be regarded as custodial parents and can make important life decisions about the child, including living arrangements, education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. The Michigan court often encourages joint custody—when both parents are fit, of course—to ensure that they participate in their child's life and upbringing. 

How Child Custody Is Determined in Michigan   

In a contested child custody case, the Michigan court will determine physical and legal custody based on the best interests of the child. Many factors are considered, including the following: 

  • The reasonable preferences of the child 

  • The affection, love, and other emotional connections between the child and each parent 

  • The moral fitness of each parent 

  • Each parent's ability and willingness to provide the child with basic needs, such as food, healthcare, clothing, and other material needs 

  • Each parent's ability and willingness to give the child love, guidance, and affection 

  • The ability and willingness of each parent to continue the education (and religious upbringing, if applicable) of the child 

  • Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child 

  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity 

  • Each parent's ability and willingness to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent 

  • The physical and mental health of both the parents and the child 

  • Any other factor considered relevant to a particular child custody dispute by the court 

A skilled Michigan child custody attorney can present your case diligently in court and help you achieve the most favorable outcome. 

Modifying Child Custody in Michigan

In order to modify a child custody order, the requesting parent must show that: 

  • There is a proper cause for seeking child custody modification 

  • There has been a substantial change of circumstances since the existing order was made 

  • The proposed changes will be in the best interest of the child 

Allow a divorce lawyer to help you file your child custody modification petition and guide you through the legal procedures involved. 

You Deserve Steadfast Legal Support 

Determining child custody and parenting time arrangement during a divorce can be quite complex—not to mention emotionally draining. You don’t need to go through this process alone. For over 30 years, Attorney John Bailey has devoted his career to guiding individuals and families through the complicated procedures involved in child custody agreements. As your attorney, John can advocate for your best interests and work intelligently with your child's other parent to achieve a reasonable child custody and parenting time arrangement. 

Contact JRB Law PLLC today to schedule an initial consultation with a dedicated family law attorney. Attorney John Bailey can offer you the personalized guidance and reliable advocacy you need to make smart decisions in your divorce and child custody matters. The firm proudly serves clients across Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Belleville, Portage, and Kalamazoo, Michigan.