Michigan Child Custody Issues

Legal forms titled Child Custody Action Cover Sheet from the State of Michigan Third Judicial Circuit in Wayne County

The divorce process is an extremely emotional time especially when deciding child custody issues. Michigan child custody laws determine who is awarded custody. Michigan courts prefer to award joint custody unless sole custody would be in the best interests of the child. The court considers factors such as the child’s age, physical and mental health, the parent’s ability to care for the child, and the child’s emotional attachment to the parent. Overall, Michigan courts always consider the best interests of the child when determining custody arrangements.

What are the different custody arrangements in Michigan?

Michigan has several custody arrangements that determine how parents share responsibilities for spending time with their children during separation and after divorce. The different types include:

  • Sole physical custody: One parent has primary physical custody of the child and the other parent has visitation rights. A visitation schedule may be established by parents and approved by the court; or, the court may assign a schedule.
  • Joint physical custody: Both parents share physical custody of the child. In this type of arrangement the child spends significant time with both parents. The schedule is often worked out by the parents.
  • Sole legal custody: One parent makes all significant decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. In this case, one parent decides which religion, school, and medical decisions are in the child’s best interest. The other parent has visitation rights.
  • Joint legal custody: Both parents share major decision making regarding the child’s upbringing and well-being.

It’s important to understand that custody arrangements are a combination of the four categories. For example, one parent may have sole physical custody, yet parents have joint legal custody. Basically, the child lives with one parent and visits the other. However, both parents are involved in major life decisions for the child.

What determines an unfit parent in Michigan?

An unfit parent is someone who is unable to adequately care for the child or, any parent who could harm the child. The court considers several factors when making this determination.

  • Neglect or abuse- If the court sees a documented history of neglect or child abuse that parent may be considered unable to care for the child.
  • Mental illness- If a parent is mentally ill to the point that the illness has hurt the child, the court considers this factor when awarding custody.
  • Substance abuse- If a parent has a drug or alcohol addiction that renders them unable to properly care for a child, the court may order supervised visitation.
  • Criminal behavior-Depending on the offense, the court will consider if the child is safe with the offending parent. Once again, the child’s best interests remain the court’s top priority.
  • Mental abuse- If one parent tries to turn a child against the other parent, the court looks very unfavorably at these actions.

How can I prove my spouse is unfit?

A spouse may be deemed unfit when there is evidence to prove bad actions. You must obtain a well-qualified attorney’s assistance for such a vitally important matter. Your child’s safety is extremely important. Necessary evidence may include: police reports, medical reports, eye witness accounts, and any other ocular evidence. Basically, document everything. Take pictures of any injuries. Leave the house or apartment when in danger. Call the police and make reports when necessary. Remember, the court needs evidence. Your word is insufficient. Sadly, some folks lie about abusive spouses just to get custody of children. Often this is an attempt to “get back” at a spouse. Tragically, this hurts the precious children and makes it difficult for real victims to prove their cases. So, contact an attorney regarding any divorce especially when children’s future well-being is at stake.