No matter how hard parents try to shield their children from the effects of a divorce, it will have an impact on them during the proceeding and after the split is final. Prioritizing the emotional and psychological wellbeing of the children is the primary focus of the judge who must rule on the final custody arrangement.
Michigan law defines a number of important considerations that are in the best interest of the child, which guide the court’s decision on who will have custody and parenting time. Some of the factors include:
- the emotional ties of each parent to the child and their capacity to provide love and affection,
- the capacity of either parent to provide for the physical needs of the child, including housing, food, clothing, medical care and other material needs
- the moral, mental and physical fitness of either parent
- the stability of the home environment and access to community and educational support
- any history of domestic violence in the home
Custody decisions in Michigan
Michigan is both a no-fault grounds and a 50/50 custody state, which means that the judge will start from the position that both parents will receive equal custody and parenting time unless other factors come to light, such as domestic violence, neglect or an examination of the child’s relationship to both parents. As part of this, the judge will investigate whether one or both parents have an established custodial environment (ECE).
Once the judge has enough information, he or she will make a decision on which parent will have custody and parenting time. In Michigan there is sole custody, in which one party is the primary custodial parent, and joint custody, in which both parents share custodial responsibilities.
There is also joint legal or physical custody. The first allows shared decision-making over the child’s religious, educational and medical concerns. Shared physical custody involves both parents’ responsibility for the living arrangements of the child.
Deciding on parenting time
When the judge rules on parenting time, it is with the same guidance of what will be in the best interest of the child concerning who will have visitation rights, and how long and how often the visits will be. If there is a history of abuse or neglect, evidence of abuse during parenting time or if the parent uses the time unwisely, or if the distance between homes makes visitation difficult, will all factor into whether or not the arrangement serves the child’s needs.
When fighting to protect your children as well as for your rights as a parent, it is important to have effective advocacy during a challenging custody battle.