Seeking custody is one of the most difficult and emotional parts of a divorce. Michigan courts consider the best interests of the child and review several factors when making child custody decisions. Joint custody, where each parent has sufficient time with their child, is encouraged. If possible, the agreement should give both parents a role in making major decisions on the child’s upbringing. If both parents cannot agree to this, the judge will decide custody based upon the best interests of the child.

In Michigan, the child’s best interests include their parents’ health, each parent’s willingness to encourage the child’s relationship with their other parent, a parent’s moral fitness and the  ability to take care of the child’s needs for food, shelter and medical care. Other factors may include any domestic violence history, the child’s ties to the school and neighborhood, and the length of time that children lived in a loving and secure environment because judges are unlikely to take a child from one parent if the child is secure and thriving.

A parent with custody or visitation rights cannot move from Michigan or at least 100 miles away without court permission. However, permission is not required if the other parent consents, the parents already live at least 100 miles apart, the moving parent has sole custody, or the move brings the two parents geographically closer.

A parent seeking court approval for relocating must demonstrate how the move would benefit their child. Reasons may include a better job or support from family members in that location. That parent must submit a revised and workable visitation schedule that keeps meaningful contact between the child and the other parent.

Custody may be modified if there is clear and convincing evidence that there was a meaningful change of circumstances and that modification will serve the child’s best interests. The judge must determine whether an established custodial condition exists.

In an ECE, the child was in their current home for an extended time and is used to seeking guidance and comfort and their daily needs from one parent. Modification is more likely when an ECE does not exist because continuity for the child is an overriding issue.

An attorney can help protect your rights and seek an order that assure the child’s best interest. They can also pursue your interests in negotiations and court proceedings.