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Child Custody

Child Custody: A Breakdown of the Different Types of Agreements

Child custody arrangements can be a contentious issue for divorcing couples in Michigan. The process runs more smoothly when parents work together to arrive at a custody agreement.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen, and courts are left to decide child custody arrangements based on what it sees as “the best interests of the child.”

Legal vs. Physical Custody

In Michigan divorce proceedings, child custody agreements are ordered based on a judge’s decision after an evaluation of the “best interests” factors described in the Michigan Child Custody Act of 1970. Every divorce has its own unique circumstance, but in all cases, the two types of custody to be decided are legal and physical custody.

Legal Custody

The parent who has legal custody has the right and responsibility to make decisions that affect the child’s life. This includes decisions about the child’s:

  • Education
  • Health care
  • Religious upbringing
  • Extra-curricular activities

The state of Michigan operates under the assumption that children are best served when both parents are involved in their lives. Because of this, legal custody is often awarded jointly, so both parents share in the decision-making process.

There are cases where joint legal custody is inappropriate, so sole custody is awarded to one parent or the other, and that parent makes decisions about the child.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where the child lives. Like legal custody, physical custody can be awarded jointly to both parents or solely to one parent or the other.

Sole physical custody doesn’t mean the child never sees the non-custodial parent. An 80/20 split of the child’s time is often the sole custody arrangement and means the child spends the majority of their time with the custodial parent but visits the non-custodial parent.

Even when physical custody is awarded jointly to both parents, the court may establish a primary physical residence for the child. This would mean that the child’s main residence is with one parent, though the time spent with each may be evenly split.

Parenting Time (Visitation)

When sole custody is awarded, the non-custodial parent gets visitation rights. The time the non-custodial parent spends with the child is referred to as parenting time. If the court orders that the parents work out “reasonable” parenting time for the non-custodial parent, then both parents are expected to work out the details of the visit.

Factors that can affect the parenting time schedule include:

  • The age of the child
  • How far apart the parents live from one another
  • The schedule of the parents

In the event that the judge makes specific orders concerning parenting time, the details are clearly listed in the court order. A judge may take this action if the parents are unable to reach a parenting time agreement among themselves.

Get Help with Your Michigan Child Custody Agreement

Gucciardo Family Law can help you arrive at a child custody agreement that is best for you and your child. Give us a call today.

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We focus exclusively on family law matters so we are always available to answer your questions and help.

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