Custody and Parenting Time

Custody is divided into two categories: legal and physical. Legal custody pertains to the decisions made on behalf of the child. As a general rule, the court will award parents joint legal custody. However, in special instances, the court may award one parent sole legal custody. Physical custody pertains to the parent who has physical care of the child. When determining physical custody the court applies what is referred to as the “best interest” factors. These factors are reviewed in order to form a custodial arrangement that is in the best interest of a child. Those factors are:

  1. Love, affection, and emotional ties
  2. Ability to give guidance and provide for educational needs
  3. Ability to provide food, clothing, medical care, or other remedial care
  4. Ability to provide a stable home environment
  5. The mental and physical health of the parents
  6. Ability of the child to adjust to home, community and school
  7. The child’s reasonable preference if the child is of sufficient age
  8. Whether there has been domestic violence in the home
  9. The initial determination of which parent is awarded custody is critical because it becomes more difficult to change custody once it has been established.

Once established the parent wishing to change custody must show that there has been a change in circumstances which occurred after the initial custody order is entered. The clear & convincing evidence standard carries a higher burden of proof. This is the reason why it is more difficult to change custody once it is established.

A parenting time order specifies when a child will spend time with each parent. According to Michigan statute parenting time is granted in a “frequency, duration and type reasonably calculated to promote a strong relationship between the child and parent.” If the parents agree to a parenting time schedule the court will generally adopt that schedule unless it is not in the best interest of the child. If the parents do not agree then the court determines what that schedule will be. In many counties in Michigan the Friend of Court provides a suggested parenting time schedule as a guide as to what that schedule should be.

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