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Grand Rapids Child Custody Lawyer

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Child custody hearings are analogous to full-blown bench trials, in which the Family Court judge is required to make decisions in the best interest of the minor child(ren).

In family court matters, often a temporary order is issued very quickly after the filing of a divorce. This temporary order will become the basis for all future decisions by the judge, including who stays in the marital home and who provides the established custodial environment for the child. Therefore in family law cases it can be crucial for you to obtain representation without delay.

Joint Custody in Michigan

How to Get Joint Custody in Michigan

Michigan law requires that, at the request of either parent, the judge must consider ordering joint custody. If the parents agree, the judge must order it unless it is not in the best interests of the child. If the judge does not award joint custody under these circumstances, there must be written reasons stated on the record.

Michigan Joint Custody Laws

Child custody laws in Michigan are dictated by MCL 722.26a, which is part of the Child Custody Act of 1970. MCL 722.26a (7) defines joint custody to include either or both, alternating physical custodial arrangements and joint decision-making authority. “In order for joint custody to work, parents must be able to agree with each other on basic issues in child rearing – including health care, religion, education, day to day decision-making and discipline – and they must be willing to cooperate with each other in joint decision-making.”

Michigan Joint Custody Factors

The ability to cooperate is not the sole factor, and in the event that both parents are unable to agree on important matters affecting the child, the court must decide those matters using child custody factors which are designed to determine the best interests of the child.

Sole Custody in Michigan

Sole custody is when one parent provides most of the day-to-day care for a child and has the exclusive right to make major decisions for the child. If the judge believes the parents cannot work together for the benefit of their child, he or she may grants sole physical custody to one parent. In that case, the other parent may be given parenting time as the judge determines. If parenting time is ordered, the parent who is exercising parenting time is responsible for making routine18 decisions for the child during parenting time.

Factors going into the decision of which parent is granted sole custody in Michigan include:

  • Emotional ties between parent and child
  • The capacity to provide for the child emotionally and financially
  • Parent emotional and physical health
  • The preference of the child
  • Domestic violence
  • And others

Sole Physical Custody vs Sole Legal Custody in Michigan

Physical custody refers to who the child lives with. Legal custody is given to the parent who will make the important decisions for the child, such as choice of school, religion, and medical decisions. Parents can share legal custody even when one has full physical custody.

How Does a Judge Determine The Best Interests of the Child?

The Michigan Child Custody Act lists twelve factors on which the court (the judge) must hear evidence after which he or she makes findings on the record upon which custody is awarded. The factors are:

  • The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between each parent and the child;
  • Each parent's ability and willingness to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in religion or creed (if any);
  • The ability and willingness of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and other material needs;
  • How long the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
  • The permanence of the family unit of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes;
  • Each parent's moral fitness;
  • The parent's and the child's mental and physical health;
  • The child's home, school, and community record;
  • The child's reasonable preference, if the child is old enough to express a preference;
  • Each parent's willingness and ability to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child; and
  • Any other factor the court deems relevant to a particular child custody dispute.

What is Parenting Time and Who Has it?

Under Michigan law, it is the child that has the right to parenting time with both parents. Provided that it is in the best interest of the child, the judge will adopt a parenting time schedule that both parents agree on. If the parents can't agree on a schedule, the judge will create one for them.

A court-ordered parenting time schedule establishes the minimum amount of parenting time for the noncustodial parent. This time is factored into the child support calculation.

Contact Our Child Custody Lawyer Today

Our attorneys at Scozzari Graham, PLLC, have the skill and flexibility to move quickly in family law cases, which may often provide an advantage in custody litigation.

Schedule a free consultation with our team of lawyers at Scozzari Graham, PLLC by calling (616) 229-3002 or contacting us online. Let us safeguard your rights as a parent.

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