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Child Custody in Michigan

Michigan Uncontested Custody Issues

Regarding child custody in Michigan, if both the father and the mother agree to child custody or parenting time arrangement, they can agree to enter a written order with the Court that states the terms of the arrangement. If the order complies with state law, the Court will generally enter the agreed upon order.

In Michigan, physical custody can be awarded as sole physical custody, joint physical custody or as shared custody arrangements. In addition to some form of physical custody, both parties are generally awarded joint legal custody of their children, allowing them to participate equally in the education, medical and religious decisions for their children.

Michigan Contested Custody Issues

If both parents cannot agree as to Michigan custody and parenting time, the “best interests of the child factors”, of the Michigan Child Custody Act, are the factors used by the Court making a custody award. Usually, the matter is first referred to the Friend of the Court for an investigation and recommendation. If one of parents disagrees to the recommendation made by the Friend of the Court, then the matter is either scheduled for an evidentiary hearing or a trial.

Factors Used by Michigan Courts for Custody

If there is no established custody order, then the court evaluates the "best interests of the child" factors as outlined below. If there is an established custody order, then before evaluating the "best interests of the child" factors, the Court must first find that there has been a change in circumstances. If there has been a change in circumstances, then the "best interests of the child", as outlined below, will be reviewed by the Court. The best interests of the child factors to be considered, evaluated, and determined by the Court are found in the Michigan statutes at MCL 722.23 and are as follows:

- The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
- 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.
- 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.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
- The moral fitness of the parties involved.
- The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
- 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 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.
- Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
- Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.

In Michigan custody cases, all of the above factors are evaluated by the Court.

Some people mistakenly believe that when a child reaches a certain age, that child may choose with whom they wish to live. That is not true. In Michigan the child must be an adult, age 18, before he/she can decide with whom they will live. Although factor 9, listed above, considers the reasonable preference of the child, it is only one factor evaluated among the others, and it is not the deciding factor. So, while the preference of the child is taken into consideration, it is not given any more weight than any other factor. However, on a practical note, most police departments in Michigan will not enforce the return of a 16 year old to one parent when that 16 year old is with the other parent.

Michigan Child Custody Websites

You can find information about custody and parenting time in Michigan at the sites below:

State of Michigan Parenting Time Investigation Manual -- Excellent State of Michigan publication written for Friend of the Court personnel regarding parenting time investigations.

Michigan Custody Guideline -- State of Michigan publication regarding custody and Michigan Parenting Time Guideline

International Custody Disputes -- United States Department of State web site with information regarding international custody abduction / disputes.

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