In Michigan, both parents will share custody of the minor children, unless there is a court order that states otherwise. Both parents will share custody, even if the child is living with only one parent. There are two types of custody, legal custody and physical custody. Custody in Michigan is governed by MCL 722.21, the Child Custody Act of 1970.
Legal custody means who major decisions regarding the child. Major decisions involve schooling, religion, health, welfare, and care of the child. This type of custody is usually always joint (both parents make the decision) because the courts want both parents to make these decisions. If the parents cannot make a decision, they will have to go to court and file a motion and have a judge resolve the issue.
Physical custody simply means who the child is going to live with. The court can grant sole physical custody, which means the child will live solely with one parent, or joint physical custody, which means the child will live with both parents equally.
As long as one party requests joint physical custody, the court must consider the option and must state on the record the reasons for granting or not granting the request. In order to have this type of custody, both parents must be able to communicate with each other and come to an agreement on decisions. It doesn't make sense to award joint physical custody to both parents if they can't even talk to each other. Also, both parents must be able to attend to the child needs. If one parent travels 5 out of the 7 days a week, joint physical custody will not work.
Joint physical custody is found at MCL 722.26a, and it will create a custodial relationship in both parents. That means if one parent wants to change custody or try to get sole physical custody, they must show to the court by clear and convincing evidence that the relationship should be changed. Whatever evidence is shown must be highly and substantially more probable than not and the fact finder must have a firm belief in the evidence. Joint physical custody will not eliminate the responsibility to pay child support, and both parents will be responsible for child support based on the needs of the child and the resources of the parents.
Another thing to keep in mind about joint physical custody is the legal residence of the child. If you are under a joint physical custody order, then under MCL 722.31, one parent cannot change the legal residence of the child more than 100 miles from the legal residence of the child at the time of filing, absent a court order or agreement of both parents.
For more information about child custody, visit Metro-Detroit Divorce Lawyer website, or call for a free consultation. In Macomb County, call (586) 439-4297 extension 0. In Oakland County, call (248) 581-0598 extension 0. I have night and weekend appointments available.
Sign up to receive a 5-part series of useful information and advice about child custody law.