In Michigan, the custody of minor children is awarded based upon the best interest of the minor children. What constitutes “best interests” is determined by reference to 12 factors listed in the Michigan Child Custody Act.
Parenting Time is also based on the children’s best interests. Generally, the courts prefer that the parties to a divorce have the ability to decide what is best for their children, both as to custody and parenting time, but of course, many cases are hotly contested and that is when the 12 best interest factors come into play.
Two Types of Child Custody in Michigan
There is both legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody refers to the decision-making authority over the significant aspects of a child’s life, including education, religion and medical care. Generally, if both parents are mentally capable, physically present in the state and can work together to make decisions for the children, joint legal custody is awarded. An award of sole legal custody is the exception, not the rule.
Physical custody refers to the residence where the children make their primary home. It can be one of the following:
- Sole Custody is in one parent’s home, with the other exercising parenting time (also known as visitation).
- Shared Custody is where the children spend something close to equal or equal time with each parent.
- Split Custody is more unusual, where siblings are separated, and some live with one parent, some with the other.
Modifying Custody or Parenting Time in Michigan
It is not easy to get custody modified once a court order has been entered. Generally, a parent wanting to modify parenting time must demonstrate to the court that there is proper cause or a change of circumstance justifying a change in custody. It is a very difficult thing to prove.
A more relaxed version of the same standard applies to modifying parenting time. Even if the parent makes it past that high standard, the court must still be convinced that the child’s best interests are served by a change in custody.
Custody battles typically are hard-fought, and can cost both untold thousands of dollars, not to mention the emotional toll on both the parents and unfortunately, on the children as well.