Child custody refers to the legal guardianship of a child or children. In the state of Michigan, child custody is a highly contested issue in divorce proceedings. This is due in part to the state’s “best interest of the child” standard, which requires that custody be awarded to the party who can best ensure the child’s physical, mental, and emotional health.
In most cases, both parents are awarded some form of custody, though the specifics will vary depending on the situation. In some cases, the custody of a minor child may be determined by the arrangement that the parents make prior to divorce. If the parents can’t agree on custody, the court will decide which parent should have primary physical custody of the child and which parent should have primary legal custody.
What is Primary Physical Custody?
Primary physical custody is when one parent is awarded the majority of the physical custody time with the child. This means that the child will primarily reside with that parent and have visitation with the other parent. The rationale behind primary physical custody is that it is in the best interest of the child to have a strong, consistent relationship with one parent.
What is Primary Legal Custody?
Primary legal custody is a term used in family law to describe the parent or parents who have the most authority to make decisions for a child. In the event of a dispute, these parents would have the final say in decisions about the child’s health, education, and welfare. Primary legal custody does not necessarily mean that one parent has physical custody of the child; it could simply mean that one parent has more decision-making authority than the other.
How are Primary Physical Custody and Primary Legal Custody Decided?
As we noted earlier, in general, the Michigan courts will give primary custody to the parent who is considered to be more responsible and able to provide for the child’s well-being. The courts may also consider factors such as the child’s age, relationship with both parents, and whether either parent has demonstrated a history of violence or abuse.
The court will look at which parent is better suited to provide the children with stability and continuity in their lives, as well as which parent is more likely to ensure that the children’s needs are met.
Can Primary Physical Custody and Primary Legal Custody Roles be Shared Between Parents?
Primary physical custody and primary legal custody roles can be joint, sole, or split.
1. Joint Custody
In the simplest terms, joint custody is a parenting plan in which both parents share responsibility for their children. Joint custody can be achieved through two different arrangements: joint physical custody and joint legal custody. With joint physical custody, the children live with both parents roughly half the time. With joint legal custody, both parents share decision-making authority for the children.
Judges sometimes prefer to award joint custody when possible, as it is generally considered to be in the best interests of the children. However, there is a catch; only if one or both parents desire (and request) shared custody does Michigan’s law mandate that the court inform both parents of this option.
2. Sole Custody
Sole custody is an arrangement in which one parent has the exclusive right to make major decisions for a child, and the other parent has no say in these decisions. Usually, sole custody is awarded to the parent who is deemed to be better able to care for the child. This can be based on a number of factors, such as the parent’s mental and physical health, their parenting skills, and their ability to provide for the child financially.
3. Split Custody
Split custody is when one parent has primary custody of one or more children and the other parent has custody of the remaining children. In split custody, the children are divided between their parents’ homes.
In Michigan, courts typically prefer split custody arrangements when both parents are deemed fit and capable of caring for their children. This arrangement allows each parent to have significant time with their children and helps maintain strong relationships with individual parents without dad/mom friction.
Factors Considered in Determining Custody: The Parenting Plan
A parenting plan is a written agreement between parents that spells out their responsibilities for their children. The parenting plan can include everything from how decisions will be made about the children’s education and medical care to how often the parents will see their children. The parenting plan can be tailored to fit the specific needs of the family, and it can be renegotiated as the children grow and their needs change.
A parenting plan can help prevent costly litigation as it often makes the judge reach a decision faster, given that all parties have already come up with a plan.
What to Consider When Drafting a Parenting Plan
When drafting a parenting plan, one must consider the best interests of the child. This includes factors such as the child’s age, health, and safety; the parents’ ability to cooperate and make decisions jointly; and the parents’ willingness to put the child’s needs before their own. The parenting plan should also specify how major decisions will be made, as well as how disputes will be resolved.
How May You Negotiate a Parenting Plan With Your Ex?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to negotiate a parenting plan with your ex will vary depending on your specific situation. However, some tips on how to negotiate a parenting plan successfully with an ex include remaining civil and respectful, being realistic about what you can agree on, and setting a clear agenda for each negotiation session.
Do You Need Help With Drafting a Parenting Plan or With Child Custody Litigation?
If you need assistance creating a parenting plan, our firm can provide you with the skilled legal representation you need. Our attorneys have experience in all areas of family law, including child custody litigation. We can help you understand your rights and advocate for what is in the best interests of you and your children. We can also provide representation during custody hearings should they become necessary.
If you are already in the midst of a child custody battle, you should call us at (313) 451-6929 or simply walk into one of our Michigan offices. You may also contact us via our website. We will assist you in evaluating and resolving any issues you have.