Child custody and visitation in Michigan

Michigan couples considering a divorce have a lot to think about. Thinking about divorce is even more complicated when children are involved. Michigan child custody laws are in place to protect children and help create a post-divorce setting that is best for them.

Types of child custody in Michigan

In Michigan there is both physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child will actually live. Legal custody refers to who makes the important decisions for the child. Important decisions include religious, medical and educational decisions.

Both physical and legal custody can either be sole or joint. If parents are awarded joint custody they share the responsibilities. If only one parent is awarded custody then that parent will have sole custody. It is possible for parents to have joint legal custody but not joint physical custody.

What do courts consider when making child custody determinations?

Parents can come up with their own child custody plan and submit it to the court for approval, but if they cannot agree the court will make the arrangement for them. The court considers what is in "the best interest of the child." When making this determination the court looks at several factors including:

  • The parents abilities to provide adequate food, clothing, medical care and other material needs
  • Moral, physical and mental health of the parties
  • The preferences of the parents and the child if the child is of suitable age
  • History of domestic violence
  • The ability of the parents to give the child affection, love and guidance

The court also values stability for the child and takes into consideration the permanence of the family unit and the child's connection to the school and community. The court also looks into whether the parents are going to be able to cooperate with one another and facilitate a relationship between the child and the other parent.

Visitation arrangements

If only one parent is awarded physical custody, the other parent will likely have parenting time or visitation. Many Michigan courts have a standard parenting time schedule where the noncustodial parent has visitation every other weekend and one evening on the weekdays. Holidays are also split between the parents and are usually alternated every year.

When parents have joint physical custody the court may also create a parenting time schedule and give the parent time with the child as equally as possible.

As one can easily see, the child custody process can be complex. Michigan parents will find it imperative to hire an experienced family law attorney to help them through the process and make sure that they get the best result for their family.