Michigan Child Custody FAQs

Answers to common questions about how Michigan courts decide custody matters when parents divorce.

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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. 

Can I get joint custody of my children?

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").

What is parenting time?

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.

How do Michigan courts decide custody issues? 

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. 

What factors does the court consider in awarding custody?

The Michigan Child Custody Act lists the factors the court must consider in deciding where the children's best interests lie. They include:

  • the love, affection and other emotional ties existing between each parent and the child
  • the ability and willingness of each parent 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)
  • the ability and willingness of each parent 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
  • 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
  • the moral fitness of each parent
  • the mental and physical health of all
  • 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 preference)
  • the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents
  • 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.

Updated by: , J.D.

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