Michigan Child Custody & Parenting Time Attorneys
Child custody in Michigan has been an evolving legal matter over the last century. In Michigan, a long time ago, the father had absolute property right to the children then it changed to the mother having a preference as the best parent, now to the modern day standard in Michigan of “best interest of the child”. In Michigan one parent cannot receive biological preference as the sole determining factor of custody.
Today, Michigan courts are required to adopt a gender neutral approach and assess the ability of each parent to care for their children. The Michigan family division looks to the Child Custody Act of 1970 to determine the child’s custody, support and parenting time. Even if the parties come to an agreement about custody in Michigan, the court must still apply the best interest standard in determining whether or not to abide by the agreement of the parties. Even if a determination is made by the alternative dispute resolution process in Michigan, the court must still make their own determination.
In Michigan custody battles, parents, agencies and third parties including grandparents may have standing to seek custody. In Michigan the parent is given the presumption of custody, because it is presumed that it is in the best interest of the child to be with a parent unless there is clear and convincing evidence to establish custody with another person or agency.
A Michigan judge must examine the best interest of each individual child, but will keep the children together if that is indeed in the best interest of the child.
Trial courts are required to make “best interests” findings of fact in each of the following circumstances:
- When a parent seeks to terminate a full minor guardianship;
- When a parent or the parent with right to custody seeks to terminate a limited minor guardianship and the parent has not substantially complied with the limited guardianship placement plan;
- When the court, following a review if it is in the best interests of the minor child, decides to terminate the guardianship;
- Parenting time requests;
- Requests for removal of a guardian; and
- Custody and parenting time decisions.
A Michigan court will look to the following things, which are laid out in MCL 722.23:
(a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
(b) 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.
(c) 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.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
(f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
(j) 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.
(k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
(l) Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.
In Michigan the court will apply a “reasonable preference” as one of the factors in making a determination. A Michigan judge may question the child outside the courtroom in order to obtain the preference, which removes the child from having to state their preference in front of both parents. A Michigan court must state on the record if a preference was expressed, and if the preference was considered in the decision, but the court does not need to announce the preference, it will just be one factor of the court’s decision. In general, the older and more mature the child, the greater weight the preference in the court coming to a decision.
In Michigan, there is a presumption that it is in the best interest of the child to have a strong relationship with both parents. If one parent has sole physical custody of a child in Michigan it is presumed that the other parent will be granted parenting time, which means spending time with the child. Parenting time in Michigan will be granted to a parent as frequency, prolonged and type reasonable to promote a strong relationship between the child and parent who is granted parenting time. This might mean certain weekends, holidays, certain extended vacations; courts and parties can get creative in determining parenting time in Michigan.
Parties are free to come to an agreement on their own about parenting time in Michigan cases, which are subject to the court’s review of the “best interest of the child” or a court may determine the parenting time.
Parenting time is modifiable in Michigan by the parties consent or a party filing a motion, and the court making a determination if proper cause has been shown and if there is a change of circumstances, which warrant the modification.
Yes, during a family court proceeding such a a divorce in Michigan the court may grant a temporary order of custody. This is not the final judgment, but may become a final judgment if the Michigan family court should order the child to remain in the same custodial environment.
One important facet of the temporary order is that it could lead to an custodial environment being established, which would apply the higher standard for the other parent changing the child’s custody situation in Michigan.
In Michigan sole custody means that one parent has primary physical custody as well as legal custody of the child. Joint custody in Michigan means that parents could share one or both of physical and legal custody.
Legal custody of a child in Michigan is defined as a parent having the responsibility over major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, medical treatment, school enrollment, religious instruction and other similar matters.
Non-major decisions are to be made with the parent who has physical custody of the child in Michigan at the time that the decision is made. This means that the parent without legal custody of a child, may make certain decisions for the child while spending their parenting time.
In Michigan, a presumption exists that a fit parent’s decision to deny grand-parenting time does not create a substantial risk of harm to the child. A grandparent in Michigan may need to petition for time with grandchildren if the parents are denying them access. To rebut this presumption, and win on the issue, the grandparent must prove by preponderance of the evidence that the parent’s decision to deny grand-parenting time creates a substantial risk of harm to the child’s mental, physical or emotional health
Yes, Michigan law prohibits a parent of a child in a joint custody arrangement in Michigan from moving more than 100 miles away from the child’s legal residence at the time the custody order was issued. There are exceptions in Michigan cases such as the other parent agreeing or if the original residence was initially 100 or more miles away, and this move actually brings the child closer.
Yes, but an award concerning child support, custody and parenting time in Michigan is always subject to the review by a Michigan court, and can be vacated if the judge finds that the award is not in the best interest of the child.
Yes, in Michigan non-custodial parents must not be denied access to records and information concerning their child unless that parent is specifically prohibited from having records by a protective order. These records may include records pertaining to school, medical, dental, day care and notification of meetings regarding the child’s schooling like a parent-teacher conference.
Michigan courts have held that duty to make support payments may be suspended if parenting time is denied unless the suspension of payments would adversely affect the children.
If the answer to this question is not clear, and one is strongly advised to speak to a Michigan family lawyer before taking action.
In Michigan the Friend of the Court is the go-to person for enforcing parenting time. If the Michigan Friend of the Court receives a written complaint with specific facts constituting a custody or parenting time violation, they must take action.
A parenting time or custody order violation in Michigan is defined as “an individual’s act or failure to act that interferes with a parent’s right to interact with his or her child in the time, place, and manner established in the order that governs custody or parenting time between the parent and the child and to which the individual accused of interfering is subject”
The remedy for a violation of a parenting time order in Michigan is usually to apply “make-up” time to the aggrieved parent, or if necessary schedule alternative dispute resolution or a joint meeting between the parents.
If necessary your Michigan family law attorney can file a motion to enforce parenting time along with additional motions with the court to modify parenting time to ensure future compliance, and contempt proceedings could be initiated