At The Smith Law Offices, P.C., we are committed to your success in a child custody case or parenting time matter. We take a highly focused approach, using our skill, knowledge and experience to help you pursue the outcome you want. We place a premium on personal service and attention, and arrange for every client to meet face-to-face with one of our lawyers.
We will help you develop and put in place child custody and parenting time (visitation) arrangements that are in the best interests of your minor children while protecting your rights as a parent. We are intimately familiar with the 12-factor test that the courts in Michigan use when determining child custody. We will carefully review each of the factors with you and give you an honest assessment of your likelihood of success, as well as any other options you may have.
We work with men and women at any stage of a child custody dispute, whether you have just filed for divorce and need to put a temporary order in place while your divorce is pending, or your divorce is final and you need assistance with modification or enforcement proceedings following the court’s decision.
We will carefully explain the differences between legal custody and physical custody, and we will help you understand when joint custody is appropriate and when you should seek sole custody of your minor children. When putting together a parenting plan, we will always consider the medical, educational, religious and other special needs of your children. At the same time, we will seek to put arrangements in place that promote a healthy parent-child relationship with both custodial and noncustodial parents, allowing both parents a meaningful opportunity to participate in the growth and development of their children.
In the Child Custody Act of 1970, several lines of the Michigan legislature determined the factors for deciding what is in a child’s best interests in child custody cases. This more commonly became known as the 12 factor test. It is used in child custody cases across Michigan to help courts determine legal ways to consider how to proceed. A full excerpt of this portion of the Act is below:
722.23 “Best interests of the child” defined.
As used in this Act, “best interests of the child” means the sum total of the following factors to be considered, evaluated, and determined by the court:
(a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
(b) 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.
(c) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
(f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
(j) The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents. A court may not consider negatively for the purposes of this factor any reasonable action taken by a parent to protect a child or that parent from sexual assault or domestic violence by the child’s other parent.
(k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
(l) Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.
As the Act outlines, there are 12 points for courts to consider legally. It can be helpful to review these 12 points before your child custody case to get an idea on the court’s thinking. In addition to these factors, there may be other circumstances a judge will consider, such as the best interests of a child with a disability.
The Child Custody Act also outlines the differences between different types of custody. While there is no legal definition for sole custody, and Michigan courts will put effort into making sure both parents have a part in raising their child, it refers to when physical and legal custody of the child is given to one parent only.
The legal definition of joint custody is when both parents share the decision-making power regarding a child. Joint physical custody is defined differently and is where the child’s physical custody is shared between parents. For example, they alternate weeks with their child in their home.
We are a small law firm by intent so that we can devote more time to every case we handle. Because of our broad knowledge and our willingness to listen carefully to the needs and concerns of our child custody and family law clients, many of our new cases come to us in the form of referrals.