Learn how child custody is determined in Michigan, how you can modify custody orders, and more.
Michigan encourages both parents to remain involved in their children's lives, even after a divorce. In some states, the court begins the custody process by presuming that joint custody is in the child's best interest. In Michigan, however, the law only requires the court to advise both parents of joint custody and requires the court to consider joint custody only if either or both parents request it. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 722.26a (1).)
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. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 722.27a (1).) 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 deciding. (Mich. Comp Laws § 722.26a (1).)
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 court will create a parenting time (visitation) schedule for the other parent.
What Is Parenting Time?
Parenting time is the time a noncustodial parent spends with the children. Under Michigan law, children have a right to parenting time with the non-custodial parent unless the other parent demonstrates, by clear and convincing evidence, that visitation would endanger the child's physical, mental, or emotional health. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 722.27a (3).)
How Does the Court Create a Parenting Time Schedule?
In many cases, parents work together to determine the best visitation schedule for everyone involved. If the court grants one parent physical custody, that parent should work to accommodate the other parent's work and social schedule to ensure that the parent and children have the opportunity to continue building a quality relationship.
The court will adopt whatever parenting time schedule that both parents agree to, as long as it's in the children's best interest. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 722.27a (2).)
If you and the other parent can't agree on a schedule, the judge will create one for you. A typical arrangement is for the noncustodial parent to have the children on alternate weekends, alternate holidays, and some of the children's school vacations.
When the court creates a schedule, you should understand that it sets out the minimum amount of parenting time for the noncustodial parent. In other words, if you and the other parent agree to allow more weekend or vacation visitation, the court order doesn't restrict you from doing so.
What Does a Judge Consider When Deciding Parenting Time?
When creating a parenting time agreement, the judge considers all of the following factors:
- whether the child has special needs
- if the child is less than 6 months old, or if less than 1 year, whether the child is still nursing
- the reasonable likelihood of abuse or neglect during parenting time
- whether there is a chance the non-custodial parent will abuse the other parent during the parenting time exchanges
- the inconvenience to, and impact on, the child for traveling for parenting time
- whether the court believes the non-custodial parent will exercise parenting time according to the order
- whether the non-custodial parent has frequently failed to exercise parenting time
- the threatened or actual detention of a child with the intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent during parenting time, and
- any other relevant factors.
You can find a sample parenting time schedule on the Livingston County website.
How Does the Judge Decide Custody in Michigan?
The key factor in every custody case is what's in the children's best interest. Judges in Michigan must apply the "best interest factors" when deciding how to allocate custody and parenting time. The Michigan Legal Help website is an excellent resource for any parent who would like more details on each of the best interest factors.
What Factors Will the Judge Consider?
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
- 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
- each parent's willingness and ability 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. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 722.23.)
Can My Child Decide Where to Live?
In short, the answer is no. It's a common misconception that, in Michigan, children of a certain age can decide where they live. On the contrary, until the child turns 18 years old, the court will determine what's best for the child using the above-listed factors.
That said, the court can consider the child's opinion, but only if the judge determines that the child is old enough and mature enough to express an opinion. The court is more likely to consider an older child's opinion than that of a younger child.
Michigan Compiled Laws, Chapter 722 contains The Child Custody Act of 1970, which details the laws and regulations for custody and parenting time in Michigan. You can read the Act by visiting the Michigan Legislature website.
If you're going through a divorce or custody dispute and you have questions, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney in your area.
Michigan child custody laws allow for custody to be awarded in multiple ways. When granted sole physical custody, one co-parent has the responsibilities of the day-to-day care of the child. Michigan child custody laws designate this co-parent to be the custodial parent and the primary residence of the child.How is child custody determined in Michigan? ›
The Best Interests Factors
You and your child's other parent may be able to work out custody and parenting time for your children. If you aren't able to agree, the judge will decide custody and parenting time based on the best interests of the child.
Parental Rights in Michigan
Unmarried fathers have the right to claim paternity (Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity) before or after a child is born. Unmarried fathers have no right to support or visitation if the mother was married during the birth of the child (must mutually establish paternity first).
The court may grant joint physical custody, meaning the child lives with each parent some of the time. Or, the court may grant sole physical custody, meaning the child lives with only one parent. Normally, if a parent has sole physical custody, the other parent has regular parenting time (visitation).Can a mother keep a child from the father in Michigan? ›
Unmarried mothers are presumed to have primary custody of their children unless the biological father establishes paternity and attains a court order of custody rights.What can be used against you in a custody battle? ›
The Reigning King of What Can Be Used Against You in a Custody Battle: Verbal or Physical Altercations. We wanted to start with the most simple pitfall to avoid: When tempers get high, it's quite alluring to get into a verbal sparring match with your ex-spouse.What do judges look for in child custody cases? ›
The child's age, gender, characteristics and background will all be a factor in the decision process. The judge or magistrate will want to ensure that the child is safe from any possible harm and the parent has the ability to meet the child's needs.How can a father win custody in Michigan? ›
- Make sure that you have a strong relationship with your child. If you have not built a strong relationship with your child since birth, this will definitely affect the court's custodial decision. ...
- Keep current with your child support payments. ...
- Show that your child is your priority.
In Michigan, however, the law only requires the court to advise both parents of joint custody and requires the court to consider joint custody only if either or both parents request it. (Mich.Can a mother move a child away from the father? ›
Parents can agree to a relocation. If both parents consent to the child moving and can agree on a new custody arrangement that considers the new location and provides the noncustodial parent a sufficient amount of time with the child, a judge may approve it if it meets the child's best interests.
Factors Judges Use to Determine if a Parent is Unfit
The safety, health, and welfare of the child. Evidence of a history of abuse or violence against the child, another child, the child's other parent, or another romantic partner. A parent's history of substance abuse, including drugs and alcohol.
Parental kidnapping is defined by MCL 750.350a as "An adoptive or natural parent of a child shall not take that child, or retain that child for more than 24 hours, with the intent to detain or conceal the child from any other parent or legal guardian of the child who has custody or parenting time rights under a lawful ...What parental rights do fathers have? ›
If the child is born into the marriage then the father has automatic parental responsibility over the child. Based on this a married fathers rights over a child include the rights to make decisions concerning the legal matters, as well as educational, health and welfare and religious matters.What age in Michigan can a child choose which parent to live with? ›
Although courts may consider the reasonable preference of the child in custody cases, the caveat is that the child must be deemed to be of sufficient age to participate. What does this mean in the state of Michigan? For starters, any child age 17 or older can choose the parent he/she prefers to live with.What are the 12 best interest factors child custody? ›
- Permanence of the family home. ...
- Moral fitness of the parties. ...
- Parents health. ...
- Successful schooling. ...
- Preference of the child. ...
- Parent facilitates and encourages a close and continuing parent-child relationship with other parent. ...
- Domestic violence. ...
- Court determined relevant factor.
One factor in determining custody is which parent has been the primary caregiver for the child. Some states actually use the term "primary caregiver"; others refer to the parent who is best able to meet the child's needs, who is most willing to accept parental responsibilities, or who has been caring for the child.What is malicious parenting? ›
In malicious parent syndrome, one parent attempts to punish the other parent and can even go too far to harm or deprive their children of the other parent by placing the other parent in a bad light.How do you fight dirty in a custody battle? ›
- Clean out bank accounts and/or max out credit cards.
- Get a restraining order against their spouse on false or trumped-up allegations.
- Making a false claim against the other spouse for physical abuse on the spouse and/or the children.
- Document everything with facts, dates, and copies of any communications.
- If other people witnessed your spouse's behavior, tell your lawyer immediately.
- Remain calm during each court appearance or meeting involving your spouse.
The child may reside in a home that is not physically safe or supportive; it may have no heat, electricity, water, sewer disposal. The house may be in general ill repair. The second physical instability comes from the physical interactions that occur between family members.
How common is a 50/50 arrangement? In applying the factors mentioned above, there is no automatic presumption that time between the parents should be equally shared, nor that either parent is automatically entitled to any minimum amount of time with the children.At what age can a child refuse to see a parent? ›
Legally, Your Child Can Refuse Visitation at Age 18
When your child reaches 18, he or she is an adult. Adults can decide who they spend time with. You will not be able to force your child to continue to see you. A family law court will no longer be able to enforce any possession or visitation clauses over an adult.
(5) A child shall not share a bedroom with a non-parent adult unless 1 of the following conditions exists: (a) The child and adult are siblings of the same sex. (b) The child and adult are foster siblings who were sharing the bedroom prior to 1 of them turning 18 years of age.What is standard parenting time in Michigan? ›
Parenting time shall occur one evening per week from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on a day of the week to be determined by the parties. If the parties cannot agree on a day, the parenting time shall occur on Wednesday evening.
Here in Michigan, one parent can have sole physical custody, which means the child lives mostly with them, while legal custody is shared between both parents. So it's entirely possible for a child to live most of the time with one parent, but both parents have equal say about how that child will be raised.Who has legal rights to a child if not married? ›
A child can have a maximum of two legal parents, one of whom is always the birth mother, regardless of her circumstances and marital status, and will be named on the child's birth certificate. The other legal parent is usually, but not always, the genetic father.Do I have the right to know who my child is around? ›
Do I have the right to know where my child is during visitation? Yes — if you have a custody order specifying that parents must disclose the child's whereabouts during their visitation time. It's a violation of the order if a parent refuses to reveal the child's location.How long does a father have to be absent to lose his rights in Michigan? ›
(a) The child has been deserted under either of the following circumstances: (i) The child's parent is unidentifiable, has deserted the child for 28 or more days, and has not sought custody of the child during that period.How can a mother get full custody? ›
Factors Considered for Granting Full Custody
A parent looking to win full custody should be prepared to state clear reasons why joint custody would not serve the child's best interests, such as if the other parent has issues with substance misuse or a history of leaving the child home alone for extended periods.
Can your Ex-Partner stop you from moving away? They may have threatened to take legal action to stop you doing this. Would a Court stop you and what exactly are your rights? The short and simple answer is your Ex-Partner cannot stop you moving away.
Usually, a parent's reasons for wanting to relocate will center on moving for a new spouse or relationship, or to move forward in their career. However, under New York law, one parent cannot just move a child far away from their other parent without Court permission if the other parent objects.How do you prove malicious parent syndrome? ›
- Denying regular or uninterrupted visitation on the part of the other parent.
- Denying phone access between the child and the other parent.
- Denying the other parent access or participation in the child's school or extra-curricular events.
In California, an unfit parent is a parent who, through their conduct, fails to provide proper guidance, care, or support to their children. This can include not only a parent's actions but also a home environment where abuse, neglect, or substance abuse is present.At what age can a child refuse visitation in Michigan? ›
In Bowers v Bowers, 190 Mich App 51, 55-56; 475 NW2d 394 (1991), the Michigan Court of Appeals determined that a child over six years old is presumed to have the capacity to express a preference in a custody or parenting time dispute.Can a parent take a child out of state without the other parents consent in Michigan? ›
If the parent seeks to move out of state, the relocating parent must get permission from the other parent or the court.Can I move out of state with my child without father's permission Michigan? ›
You Must Get the Judge's Approval
All Michigan custody orders must state that the child's domicile (legal residence) can't be moved from Michigan without the judge's approval. This applies if you have sole or joint custody. It applies even if the other parent agrees with the move.
Michigan courts frown upon parental alienation, as it is not only damaging to children's relationships with their parents but also, it is damaging to their emotional well-being. Another article by Psychology Today explains how parental alienation can harm the well-being of children of divorce.Can a mother deny a father access? ›
Your partner cannot legally stop you from having access to your child unless continued access will be of detriment to your child's welfare. Until a court order is arranged, one parent may attempt to prevent a relationship with the other. If this happens, your main priority should be the welfare of your child.How often should a dad see his child? ›
Each family is unique and reasonable access for fathers depends on the individual circumstances. Some fathers see their children every day, while others might see them just once a month. Parents might share responsibilities and alternate weekend contact, or some fathers may have weekend contact every week.Who has more right the mother or father? ›
Although many people assume that moms have more child custody rights than dads, the truth is, U.S. custody laws don't give mothers an edge in custody proceedings. Many people assume that mothers have greater child custody rights than fathers.