How Sole and Joint Custody Arrangements Differ in Michigan
For families, one of the biggest areas of concern during a divorce is the child custody arrangement. Where will they live? How will the time be split up? Will a parent receive sole custody, or share joint custody with their former spouse?
What Is Custody?
Custody can be physical custody, where the child receives most of his or her daily care from one parent, or legal custody, where a parent is responsible for all of the major decisions affecting the child, including health, education, and religious concerns.
In Michigan, custody arrangements take two forms, sole custody and joint custody. Ideally, the two parents should come to an agreement themselves regarding custody arrangements, and if the judge feels that the agreement is the best decision on behalf of the child or children, he or she will approve it.
According to the Michigan Custody Guideline, the definition of sole custody is primary and legal custody granted to one parent. This can be decided by the court if the parents do not appear to be able to cooperate for the child’s best interest. Parenting time may or may not be ordered. If it is ordered, the non-custodial parent will make decisions for the child during the parenting time.
Joint custody is further categorized as:
- Joint legal custody.
- Joint physical custody.
Joint legal custody is where both parents are responsible together for making decisions that affect the child’s best interests. Joint physical custody means the child will spend time with each parent, such as alternating weekends and holidays, and the school year and summers.
Joint custody is not determined by how much time the child spends with their respective parents. Also, joint physical custody does not mean the parents share decision-making responsibilities.
If the parents determine that joint custody would be best for their situation, the court has to order it unless the judge sees a reason not to, as in it will not be the best decision for the child, and such reservations by the judge must be stated in the record as to why they did or did not approve the request. However, the judge can also order joint custody without a request.
If joint custody is ordered, the court order will specify when the child will stay with each parent. The order will also state whether joint legal custody is granted.
According to the Michigan Child Custody Act, there are 12 factors that must be addressed when determining custody. If the parents cannot agree on a satisfactory custody arrangement on their own, a judge will decide custody after considering the following:
- Love, adoration, and emotional connection between parents and child.
- The capacity and disposition of the parties to continue the child’s education and religion.
- The ability to provide food, clothing, medical care, and other needs to the children.
- How long the child has lived in a stable environment.
- The permanence of the existing home or proposed custodial home or homes.
- The moral fitness of the parents.
- The mental and physical health of the parents and children.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- What the child prefers, if the court considers the child old enough to express preference.
- Whether each parent is willing to encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.
- Whether domestic violence has been witnessed by the child.
- Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to the case.
Obviously, there is much to consider when making these decisions about your family when you divorce. Let our experienced attorneys guide you through the process.
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