In 2017, a representative in the Michigan House introduced a bill that would create a presumption that equal parenting time and joint legal custody is in a child’s interests when the parents’ divorce. Several prominent organizations opposed the bill, including the Michigan Judges Association Family Law Committee and the National Association of Social Workers.
One of the objections to the bill was that it could potentially shift the focus to parents’ right to equal time diverting it from what is good for the child. However, according to STAT, research demonstrates overwhelmingly that equal parenting time is better for the children when their parents’ divorce.
Results of research
Based on more than 50 studies employing different research methods, researchers found that joint physical custody benefitted children in significant ways. When children spend at least 35% of the time with each parent, they are less susceptible to stress-related illnesses and mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. They get along better with peers and do better in school. Perhaps most significantly, they have better relationships with both their mothers and their fathers when they spend approximately the same amount of time with each.
Reality in Michigan
According to MLive, less than half of all divorce cases in Michigan involve joint custody arrangements. Children had equal or near-equal time with each parent in only 40% of cases. There is also a marked gender discrepancy in cases in which one parent receives full custody. Mothers get full custody of their children in 51% of divorce cases, while fathers get full custody in only 7% of divorce cases. The remaining 3% of divorce cases in Michigan involve “other” custody arrangements.