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Child Custody in Michigan

by William J. Reisdorf, JD, your Michigan Custody Lawyer


Before we talk about joint custody, we should mention the two "classifications" of custody:


What is the Difference Between Legal Custody and Physical Custody?


There are two classifications of custody in Michigan  -- "legal custody" and "physical custody." One of our Michigan Custody statutes defines legal custody in terms of the power of a parent to make important decisions regarding the child. This has been understood to mean decisions about the education, religious practices, medical, and other health care issues regarding the child. Fortunately, most parties are able to settle the issue of legal custody without a full contested hearing, and they opt for joint legal custody. In some ways, legal custody is more important than physical custody.


Exactly where and with whom the child will live is the subject of "physical custody." Many times, if both parties in a divorce agree to jointly make important decisions regarding their child, but they agree that Parent A will have "sole" or "primary" physical custody of the minor child. This is called "joint legal custody," with "primary physical custody" to one parent.


What is "Joint Custody" in Michigan?


More and more parents are agreeing to (or demanding) pure "joint custody." That is, an effort is made to have both parents designated as joint legal custodians and joint physical custodians. In such cases, major decisions for the child are made by both parents consulting with each other. In such a case, the child also lives with both parents. Typically, the child lives with one parent part of the week or month and with the other parent the remaining time. It need not be exactly 50/50, but the more defined and specific the child custody schedule -- the better.


"Pure" joint custody is not for all parents, but it should be encouraged. Modern research shows that when a child spends relatively equivalent time with both parents, he or she has a much greater chance of excelling academically, socially, and personally. Such children are less likely to be delinquent, less likely to be abusive, less likely to become teenage parents, less likely to drop out of school, and the list goes on and on. See our Links page for more information on these studies.


In order to be successful parents, joint legal and physical custodians must have patience, tolerance, and a cooperative spirit with the other parent. A parent with a history of domestic abuse, for example, is typically not a good candidate for pure joint custody.


With a well-prepared and experienced custody attorney, you can build a framework for joint custody and have your attorney implement it for you. Call our law office if you want to talk about how to build your case for joint custody. There is no charge for the initial consultation. You should not wait, however, until things become so hostile with the other party that building a joint custody plan is impossible. Plan ahead!


What Are the 12 "Best Interest of the Child" Factors in Michigan?


What factors do the Michigan courts use to evaluate child custody in Michigan?  The following 12 factors are  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.

(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.




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Representing fathers and mothers in divorce, child custody, parenting time (visitation), child support, spousal support, and other family law matters in:


Oakland County, Michigan, including Troy, Royal Oak, Madison Heights, Southfield, Farmington Hills, Rochester, Rochester Hills, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms, Huntington Woods, Pontiac, Auburn Hills, Waterford, Hazel Park, Oak Park, Ferndale, Clawson, Berkley, Pleasant Ridge, Clarkston, Holly, and Lake Orion. Macomb County, Michigan, including Warren, Sterling Heights, Clinton Township, Macomb Township, Shelby Township, Mt. Clemens, St. Clair Shores, Roseville, East Detroit, Eastpointe, Fraser, Romeo, Harrison Township, Washington Township, Utica. Wayne County, Michigan, including Detroit, Grosse Pointe, Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Woods, Livonia, Novi, Wayne, Westland, Lincoln Park, Allen Park, Taylor, Trenton, Southgate, Riverview, Grosse Ile, Wyandotte, Brownstown Township, Woodhaven, Flat Rock, Rockwood, Plymouth, and Northville. Genesee County, Michigan, including Flint, Flushing, Grand Blanc, Davison.

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