How Is Child Custody Determined in Michigan? 

Family Law Judge

How Is Child Custody Determined in Michigan? 

When a relationship ends, sorting out what happens next can be an incredibly difficult process, especially when a couple has children together. In some cases, parents can agree to split child custody evenly. This is the best option for the parents and more importantly, the child. 

However, when parents can’t agree, Michigan family courts must get involved. Ultimately, a judge will decide who gets custody of minor children using the Michigan Child Custody Act. Here’s everything you need to know about the act and the various types of custody in Michigan. 

The Best Interests of the Child

The Michigan Child Custody Act provides judges with guidelines for determining who gets child custody in a separation or divorce proceeding. The act lays out several factors, all of which are meant to guide the decision according to the best interests of the child. 

The factors a judge will consider include:

  • Love, affection, and other emotional ties between the parties and the child
  • The capacity of each party to give the child guidance, love, and affection
  • The capacity and disposition of the parties to provide food, clothing, medical care, and other necessities
  • How long the child has lived in a stable, acceptable environment 
  • The permanence of the proposed custodial homes
  • The moral fitness of the parents
  • The physical and mental health of the involved parties
  • The school situation of the child
  • The child’s preferences (depending on the age)
  • Whether domestic violence played a factor in the separation

A judge will weigh these variables and choose a custody arrangement that is in the child’s best interests. If both parents can meet the emotional, physical, and social needs of the child, they may be awarded joint and equal custody. Otherwise, the judge may award one party a disproportionate percentage of custody, which could include full or sole custody. 

Joint vs. Sole Custody 

Joint custody means that both parents have custody of the child part of the time, usually 50% each. However, there are several other joint custody formats in which one party will have the child more often than the other. The judge can structure joint custody in whatever manner is suitable to protect the child’s best interests.

Sole custody means that one parent has 100% custody of the child. The other party may have limited visitation rights or no access at all, depending on the circumstances. 

Legal vs. Physical Custody 

In Michigan, there are two other types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Physical custody determines where the child lives, while legal custody relates to decisions about the child’s education, religious upbringing, and medical care. 

Typically, parents with 50/50 physical custody will also have joint legal custody. However, if one party has sole or majority physical custody, they may also have sole legal custody. 

Navigating Custody Issues in Michigan

Need help establishing or modifying a custodial order for your child? Working with an experienced child custody attorney can help you navigate this complex process and work toward a positive outcome. 

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