Custody, Visitation and Fathers’ Rights in Michigan
As a father, you want what is best for your child. This is especially true during the difficult circumstances surrounding and following a divorce. Divorce is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. Dealing with child custody and visitation issues properly during this stressful time is of vital importance. What happens during a divorce and custody hearing can negatively affect not only the time you are able to spend with your child, but also the way in which you can care for your child. An experienced Michigan divorce attorney can help you during this nerve-racking time.
What are Father’s Rights?
There is no specific law setting out a father’s rights. The laws discuss the rights of the parents and the child. The law does not prefer one parent over the other, but sometimes the law is applied by the courts to favor the mother.
If both the mother and father have equal parenting ability, the court should be made aware of this. A competent lawyer will work to ensure that your parenting abilities are presented to the court so that custody and visitation arrangements are made with all the information available. If you, as a father, have superior abilities, your attorney will make sure that the court understands this in determining custody. Your superior parenting abilities will satisfy “the best interests of the child," the formula Michigan courts use to determine custody and visitation.
Determining Custody and Visitation
The court will determine custody and visitation using “the best interests of the child." What this means is that the court will look at a number of issues and determine which parent should have primary physical custody and what the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights are.
Michigan’s courts recognize the following factors in defining “the best interests of the child":
- Love, affection and other emotional ties
- A stable environment
- Permanence of the family unit
- Providing the necessities of life
- Guiding education and religious instruction, if applicable
- The parents’ physical and mental health and moral fitness
- The child’s home, school and community record
- What the child’s reasonable preference is
- A close and continuing parent-child relationship
- Domestic violence directed against or witnessed by the child
- Any other factor the court considers relevant to a child custody dispute
A knowledgeable attorney will be able to navigate this sometimes overwhelming path and present the court with a custody and visitation strategy resulting in a positive outcome for everyone involved.
If you are the non-custodial parent, it is in your best interest to present to the court a specific visitation schedule. It is also important to let the court know if your visitation schedule is not being adhered to by the custodial parent. Any deviation, even the most casual, should be noted and presented to the court so that a complete picture of your visitation rights is clear.
Visitation and Child Support
Your visitation schedule will also affect your child support payments. For example, if you see your child more often, then the court may adjust the support so that you will pay less. On the other hand, if you have been accused of not keeping to your visitation schedule, it is important to have an attorney work assertively to protect your rights.
The important thing to remember is that child support, custody and visitation may be modified later. Reasons for modification include loss of income due to a job loss or layoff or a new job. If any of those situations occur, you need to contact your attorney to see if a reduction is indicated and make sure your support payments are reduced.
Child Support and Arrearages
Your child support payments continue until your child is an adult. However, if you are in arrears on your payments, you will continue to pay child support until this arrearage has been satisfied, even if your child is an adult with a family of his own. Arrearages increase quickly and can be burdensome. If you find yourself in these circumstances, it is important to contact a knowledgeable attorney who can work on your behalf to assess whether the court’s calculations are correct. You may have modified custody or visitation that was not included in the calculation that could reduce your arrearage, or your attorney can set up a less taxing payment plan.