Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody in Michigan

Michigan child custody laws can seem arbitrary and unfair, especially in the midst of a custody battle or divorce.

The prospect of losing parental rights is terrifying. When parents are at odds, it is almost always the children that suffer the most. We are asked many questions about child custody in Michigan, and we wanted to take the time to answer many of the most common ones. You may have these same questions, plus others. If you don’t see an answer to your question, feel free to contact The Mitten Law Firm for a free and confidential consultation.

Who Gets Custody of The Children?

The Michigan Child Custody Act presumes it is in the best interests of a child to have a strong relationship with both parents. Courts in Michigan use 12 factors called the best interest factors to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child/children involved.

The court must look at the parenting situation before the divorce or custody case was filed. The court has to make a determination if there is an established custodial environment with either parent or both parents. An established custodial environment is a physical and a psychological environment that develops over an appreciable time and significant duration.

If there is an established custodial environment, the party petitioning the court to change it has to prove that the change is in the child’s best interests by clear and convincing evidence.

If Both Parents Share Custody, Who Pays Child Support in Michigan?

Child support in Michigan is calculated using the Michigan Child Support Formula. This formula uses both parents’ incomes, the number of overnight visits each parent has with the child per year, and the child care and health care expenses each party pays to determine how much child support is needed.

Child support is almost always awarded to the parent who has the most overnight visits. The amount of child support will depend on the numbers input into the formula.

What Are Some Common Custody Arrangements?

In Michigan, there are two types of custody: legal and physical.

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Legal custody is the ability to make important life decisions for your child, such as health care, education, child care and general welfare. Joint legal custody gives both parents the right to make these decisions and they should consult with one another before making non-routine decisions. Sole legal custody gives one parent all decision-making responsibilities.

Physical custody refers to the actual physical residence of the child. Joint physical custody allows the child to retain a residence with both parents, usually with one parent being the primary custodian and the other parent having parenting time on a set schedule. Sole physical custody means that the child resides with only one parent. The other parent may or may not have parenting time or visitation rights.

If Child Support Isn’t Paid, Can Visitation Be Denied?

No. Visitation and child support are separate entities. If you have not received a child support payment you should contact the Michigan Friend of the Court for the county where your child support order was entered. The Friend of the Court has the ability to garnish wages to help collect child support.

If visitation or parenting time was established under a court order, you could be held in contempt for not allowing the visitation.

When Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With in Michigan?

A child’s preference can be considered when they are of the age and maturity the court finds sufficient to express a reasonable preference. Each judge has discretion whether to consider the child’s opinion in a custody dispute.

In Michigan, a child’s preference is just one of twelve factors the judge will consider; a child cannot just decide to live with one parent.

Do Grandparents Have Custody & Visitation Rights in Michigan?

Grandparents do not, by default, have custody and visitation rights. However, grandparents can petition the court for these rights in very limited circumstances: with the consent of the parents during or after a divorce; if the child was born of wedlock, paternity has been established, and the father is paying child support; if legal custody of the child has been given to someone other than a parent; if the grandparent had custody of the child within the last year; or if the grandparent’s child (the parent of the grandchild) is deceased.

When is Child Custody Decided in Michigan Divorces?

An initial custody determination will be made by the Friend of the Court early in the case. The Friend of the Court will issue a recommendation based on information gathered from each parent. Each party then has the right to object to this recommendation and present evidence to the judge as to why a different order or recommendation should be made.

The parties can also negotiate a child custody agreement, and the judge will adopt it if he/she finds it is in the best interests of the children.

When Can Custody Be Modified in Michigan?

Child custody can be modified if there is proper cause or a change in circumstances. The modification must be in the best interests of the children. It is up to the party asking for the modification to present evidence that a change has occurred or that there is proper cause, and that their proposed change is in the best interests of the children.

What if Parents Can’t Agree On a Custody Arrangement?

If the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement the court will hold a trial. At the trial, each party can present evidence regarding why their proposed custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child. The court can adopt one party’s proposed custody arrangement or order any custody arrangement it feels is in the child’s best interests.

These questions and more are often extremely important in Michigan child custody cases. When you are in the midst of a divorce and have children, you need a skilled Family Law attorney in the Downriver area.

Contact The Mitten Law Firm for a Free Consultation today.