Child Custody

Michigan child custody laws can be confusing and vague at times. When evaluating child custody, Michigan courts are required to decide what is in the “best interest” of the child. More specifically, they use a multifaceted test to determine the custodial environment (who gets custody) of the child.


The factors include:


  • 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.


These factors are only a general outline that a court uses to determine Child Custody. Different courts may place more emphasis on different factors on the list.


Modification of Custody:
Once a trial court has entered a custody order, the trial court will not usually revisit that order unless the party requesting modification can prove a “change of circumstances”. The reasoning behind this is that children should have stability in their living arrangements.


Interstate Custody Issues
Interstate custody disputes typically arise when a parent who lives with the children in Michigan files for divorce in a Michigan court, or when a parent who was divorced in a different state seeks to modify that state’s child custody judgment in a Michigan court.


If the parent who lives with children files for divorce in Michigan court, the parent will be able to grant a divorce and issue a custody order, but may be restricted in its ability to divide marital assets or to award child support without the other parent’s consent to its jurisdiction.


If a parent who was divorced in a different state seeks to modify that state’s child custody judgement there may be an issue which may prevent a Michigan court from modifying that order.


Calculation of Child Support
There is a specific Michigan Child Support Formula created to determine Child Support. Child support is ordinarily payable until a child reaches the age of eighteen (or until the age of 19 if the child is still a full-time high school student).


If your financial circumstances change (i.e. you lose your job), you may ask the court to modify the amount of child support payable however any modifications will not be applied retroactively.


Joint Custody
Generally there are two types of “joint custody” in Michigan. Either “joint legal custody”, under which parents share decision making responsibility in relation to important life decisions affecting the child, and “joint physical custody”, which usually involves an equal parenting time arrangement and shared responsibility for the day-to-day care of the child. Most custody cases result in an award of joint legal custody. Joint physical custody works best when the parents have a strong relationship and ability to communicate in relation to their minor children.


Parents who decide to move after a custody order must seek permission from the trial court before relocating the children to another state or if they move over 100 miles from the original location.


If you would like a consultation regarding your divorce, please call 248-956-1165. The first consultation is free and confidential. You have nothing to lose.