Michigan encourages both parents to remain involved in their children's lives, even after divorce. Courts are required to consider joint custody, if either or both parents request it. This article explains how Michigan courts decide custody issues, including the factors a court will look at in awarding custody. For all of our articles on Michigan divorce topics, see our Michigan Divorce and Family Law page.
Michigan has a joint custody law that presumes it is in the best interests of children to maintain a close relationship with both parents. If the parents agree on joint custody, the court must order it unless it would not be in the children's best interests. If either parent requests joint custody, the court must consider the factors listed below in making a determination.
If parents have joint legal custody, they share the right to make decisions concerning such things as their children's education, medical treatment, religious training, or enrichment activities. If parents have joint physical custody, they share the time they spend with their children. Joint physical custody doesn't necessarily mean that the children spend exactly half of their time with each parent.
The court can also award one parent physical custody of the child. In that situation, the other parent will be awarded parenting time (formerly referred to as "visitation").
Parenting time is time the non-custodial parent spends with the children. A common arrangement is for the noncustodial parent to have the children on alternate weekends, alternate holidays, and some of the children's school vacations. The parents are free to agree on other times to accommodate their schedules, of course.
The court's custody award must be based on the best interests of the children, as determined by a number of factors set out in the state's custody law.
The Michigan Child Custody Act lists the factors the court must consider in deciding where the children's best interests lie. They include: