A Family Law FAQ: Michigan Child Custody Process

Divorce can be stressful for everyone involved, especially when there are children from the marriage. When navigating custody negotiations, it’s essential to understand your options.

Here, a family law attorney breaks down the different types of child custody arrangements and how custody is decided in Michigan.

What is Sole Custody?

While there is no legal definition for sole custody under Michigan family law, sole custody typically occurs when physical and legal custody are given to only one parent.

Under sole custody arrangements, the court may give the non-custodial parent parenting time. Parenting time is when a child spends with a parent who doesn’t have the child living with them most of the time.

What is Joint Custody?

Joint custody means both parents share custody of the child. If a parent requests joint custody, the court is required to consider it. If parents agree to joint custody terms, the court will award it unless the judge determines it is not in the child’s best interests. In that case, the judge must offer explicit evidence on the record to explain their decision not to grant joint custody.

Under Michigan law, the joint custody agreement can be determined to include legal custody, physical custody, or a combination of both.

Joint Legal Custody

Joint legal custody means that both parents share the right to make all decisions affecting their child. These decisions include where the child goes to school, major medical decisions, religious upbringing, etc. If the parents can’t agree on an issue, the court can designate primary legal custody to one parent.

Joint Physical Custody

Joint physical custody means the child will reside with each parent for part of the time. In most joint physical custody arrangements, during the time that the child lives with a parent, that parent will decide all routine-related matters for the child.

Who pays child support in Michigan if you have joint custody?

Joint custody doesn’t eliminate child support. Each parent is responsible for child support based on the child’s needs and each parent’s resources. However, if one parent cannot provide adequate housing for the child and the other parent has sufficient resources, the court can order support payments for their housing expenses.

How is custody determined?

If the parents can’t reach a custody agreement, the judge will decide the best arrangement based on the best interests factors under the Michigan Child Custody Act. These factors include:

  • “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 their 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 records 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.
  • (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.”

Talk to the experienced family law attorneys at JAD Law

Regardless of the child custody arrangement you seek, having a knowledgeable family attorney on your side is essential during these negotiations. JAD Law is here to help.  Contact JAD Law today to schedule an appointment.

JAD Law serves several counties across Metro Detroit, Michigan, including Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair, and Wayne counties.