In Michigan and the rest of the country, child custody decisions are based on the best interests of the child. For that purpose every state has certain guidelines that help family courts to determine what type of child custody arrangement should be implemented so that the child’s best interests are protected. In Michigan, those guidelines can be found in Compiled Laws Sections 722.23, 722.24 and 722.26a.
Best interests of the child factors
As mentioned earlier, the best interest factors play a pivotal role in all child custody matters. Some of the most important aspects that family courts look into are:
- The love, affection and emotional ties between the child and each parent
- The capacity and the disposition of each parent to provide for the child with love and affection and also food, clothing and care
- The length of time that the child has spent in a stable environment and whether the parents are willing to continue providing the child with the same
- The moral, mental, financial and physical fitness of the parents to look after the child’s wellbeing
- The home, school and community record of the child
- The preference of the child, i.e. who the child want to live with after the parents’ separation
- The separating parents’ willingness to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent–child relationship with both parents
- Whether there is a history of domestic violence
- Any other factor that the court may determine to be relevant to a particular child custody matter
Joint custody and criminal sexual conduct factors
In the event that the separating parents seek joint custody of the child, the court will look into whether the parents will be able to cooperate with each other and more or less agree on decisions that have the potential to affect a child’s welfare.
In Michigan, courts do not award custody to a biological parent if the child was conceived due to that parent’s criminal sexual conduct or if that parent was found to have committed nonconsensual sexual penetration due to which the child was conceived.