Need a Troy Michigan Child Custody Lawyer?
Definitions of Child Custody
Child custody is a term that refers to the time a child is going to be with each parent and each parent’s responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the child. Michigan recognizes two types of custody: legal and physical.
- Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions during the upbringing of the child. This includes decisions about the child’s medical care, school, religion, etc. A parent with sole legal custody makes these decisions alone. Parents with joint legal custody make these decisions together. It does not depend on the amount of time the child is with each parent.
- Physical custody refers to who the child is living with. The court may either grant joint physical custody, meaning the child lives with each parent for a specified amount of time, or sole physical custody, meaning the child only lives with one parent.
How is Custody Decided?
Parents are encouraged to reach their own agreements regarding custody arrangements. When the parents cannot reach an agreement, the judge will decide custody. The Michigan Child Custody Act presumes it is in the best interest of a child to maintain a strong relationship with both parents. The court considers various factors to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child involved (MCL 722.23):
- The love, affection and other emotional ties between the parents 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 the child in its religion;
- The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing and care;
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
- The permanence of the existing or proposed home;
- The moral fitness of the parties involved;
- 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 court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express it;
- The willingness of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent
- Domestic violence; and
- Any other factor the court considers to be relevant.
Modification of Custody
Once a child custody order is established, the Michigan Child Custody Act authorizes a court to reconsider or modify the existing order if there is proper cause shown or a change of circumstances and it is in the child’s best interest (MCL 722.27). Proper cause or a change in circumstances must have occurred after the custody order was entered. The party requesting the modification must show that the change has or could have a signification effect on the child.
Once this is established, the court must determine whether an established custodial environment exists. Under MCL 722.27(c), “The custodial environment of a child is established if over an appreciable time the child naturally looks to the custodian in that environment for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort. The age of the child, the physical environment, and the inclination of the custodian and the child as to permanency of the relationship shall also be considered.” The moving party must then show that changing custody is in the child’s best interest. The standard of proof is different depending on whether or not an established custodial environment exists.
Of the whole divorce process, child custody can be the most difficult agreement to reach and one of the biggest issues. And for good reason- child custody is an extremely sensitive and emotional issue. At Garmo & Kiste, we understand the pain of sacrificing time with your child and of causing them to lose time with their other parent, as well as the stress of making sure that the child is loved and cared for. Our experienced attorneys have a history of helping parties work together to settle these issues amicably and reach the arrangement that is best for the child and parent.
For information on specific family law issues please see: