How Michigan courts determine child custody after a divorce

| Dec 10, 2020 | Child Custody |

After a divorce that involves children, Michigan courts will determine child custody. The parent who has legal custody of a child is the one who is responsible for and has decision-making rights regarding the child’s health care, education, and religion. There is also physical custody involved where the parent is physically caring for the child. The court will determine the amount of time a child spends in each parent’s care based on numerous statutory factors. The court may grant sole custody where just one parent has custody (physical and legal) or joint custody where both parents share custody. There is also the possibility that grandparents may be awarded custody by a court. The state of Michigan generally chooses joint custody when they can and typically follow parents’ own parenting plans.

Child’s best interests factors

If parents are unable to reach an agreement in their parenting plans, the court will decide custody based on the child’s best interests. Michigan courts will look to a number of factors in determining the best interests of a child on a case-by-case basis. Michigan courts add the total of child custody factors and determine custody. The factors the court will look to are:

  • The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child;
  • The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any;
  • The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other material needs;
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining the continuity;
  • The permanence of the proposed family unit;
  • The mental and physical health of the parties involved;
  • The home school, and community record of the child;
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the child is old enough to express preference;
  • Sexual assault and domestic violence factors.

Establishing paternity

Additionally, if the parents are unmarried, the court will need to establish paternity before a child custody case is filed. In Michigan, if the mother of the child is married to someone other than the father, the mother’s husband is the presumptive legal father of the child, but this can be changed by court order revoking her husband’s paternity.

Speaking with an attorney regarding any divorce proceeding can help people achieve their goals regarding the divorce, assets, and especially child custody. Attorneys experienced in child custody cases are important to ensure each parent is comfortable with their child’s care.