Child custody issues are often the most contentious and emotional part of a divorce. Arguing about who gets furniture pales in comparison to who gets to spend more time with the children. In many ways, couples can feel like child custody agreements reflect some sort of judgment about who is the better parent.

A reliable family law attorney can help provide a balance between the logistical issues involved in child custody and the emotional ones. I will seek to be a compassionate advocate for you by using my experience to provide clear legal guidance and advice.

If you are the parent of a minor child who is considering divorce or has been served with divorce papers, you can count on the experience, compassion, and tenacity of my firm, Bowden Law, PLLC, to help you through one of the most challenging periods of your life. If you live in Mount Clemens, Michigan, any communities in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties, contact me today. I am ready to help.

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How Is Child Custody Decided in Michigan?

Divorces are all about agreements and judgments. These are the two options you have to arrive at a child custody agreement.

You and your child’s other parent can agree to the terms of a child custody arrangement and ask the court to approve it. Not only is it less expensive, but also the easiest method for your children. There are multiple issues you are required to address in child custody agreements, so you should work with an attorney to guide you through the content, help you keep discussions about the terms on track, and draft an agreement you can submit to the court.

If you and the other parent cannot agree to all the necessary terms, you will need to present your side in court so the judge can decide contested issues. It is beneficial to have a family law attorney representing your interests during the trial. You will want one who has compassion for you while being a tough negotiator and litigator in and out of the courtroom.

Joint Custody and Sole Custody

Custody-related terminology alone can be confusing. Your attorney should ensure that you have the information you need to make crucial and binding decisions. You will have many questions. Your lawyer should provide you with accurate answers.

Michigan law assumes that the best interests of minor children are served when parents share custody of them for both parents to maintain a close relationship with their children. If parents agree to joint custody, the court will order it unless evidence proves that joint custody is not in the child’s best interest. In that case, the court may award sole custody of the child, giving that parent the right to make decisions on their own.

Physical Custody and Legal Custody

Custody agreements involve both legal and physical custody. Legal custody involves decisions about such long-term matters as the child’s education, religion, healthcare, and medical treatment.

Physical custody involves the child’s residence and time spent with each parent. In most cases, the judge will order that one parent have primary physical custody. The child will live most of the time with that parent, which could determine, for example, which schools the child attends. The awarding of primary physical custody does not preclude the other parent from spending time with the child. Instead, it provides the child with a sense of home base of stability.

The court may award sole or joint legal custody or sole or joint physical custody. Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean the child will spend an equal amount of time with each parent; however, both parents will spend time with the child.

What Factors Does the Court Consider in Awarding Custody?

The court considers multiple factors when awarding custody of children, beginning with the emotional bonds existing between each parent and the child. The court will also consider the willingness of each parent to put the child’s best interests first and provide the love and support necessary to accommodate those interests. One such interest would be the support for maintaining the bond with the other parent.

Of course, the stability of the child’s home, school, and social life is a factor. In addition, each parent's emotional, physical, moral, and mental health also affects child custody. If there has been a history of domestic violence, the court will consider it when awarding custody. If the child is mature enough, the court will also consider their preferences.

What Factors Does the Court Consider in Determining Parenting Time?

The physical and emotional needs of the child drive decisions regarding parenting time. Of course, these can change as the child grows older. If the child has special needs one parent can address better than the other, the court will consider it. If the child is nursing, it will affect parenting time awarded to the non-nursing parent.

Any potential for abuse or neglect by either parent during their scheduled time with the child will be a factor. A parent’s failure to abide by a parenting agreement, either by not spending the scheduled time with the child or withholding time from the other parent will also affect court-ordered agreements. Any factor that causes the child stress, harm, or the potential for it will be considered by the court.

Can a Child Custody Agreement Be Changed?

When the court approves a child custody agreement, it issues an order. Specific life changes justify the modification of an existing child custody agreement. The remarriage of a parent, a change in a parent’s health status, or a new job that requires a parent to relocate may warrant modification of the agreement and the parenting plan. A parent’s pattern of failure to uphold an existing agreement may as well.

A parent moving away from the child may ask the court to revise the existing parenting plan because it no longer works due to the travel required. Or perhaps a parent does not adhere to the parenting plan schedule. They do not spend time as reflected on the schedule, and ask the other parent for time not provided for; thus, disrupting the lives of the child and the other parent. In this case, the parent adhering to the schedule can ask the court to intervene.

Child Custody Attorneys Serving Mount Clemens, Michigan

No matter how you feel about the other parent, you should want the child custody agreement to be the least disruptive and least traumatic as possible. As your attorney, I have the experience and legal advocacy to help guide you through the process. If you live in Mount Clemens or the surrounding areas of Michigan, including Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties, and you are facing child custody issues, contact me at Bowden Law, PLLC today to schedule a time to talk.