Understanding Child Custody

There are two types of child custody in Michigan:  legal custody and physical custody.  For legal custody, Michigan courts must consider an award of joint legal custody.  Legal custody relates to the significant issues of child-rearing, education, including
pre-school and school arrangements, daycare providers, medical decisions, psychological counseling, health care decisions and religious training.   Additionally, a party having joint legal custody is not allowed to change domicile of a home 100 miles or more away from the home occupied when the case was filed, without either permission from the other parent or from the Court.

Physical custody is the physical care and supervision of a child.  Although for some legal purposes, a minor child of divorced parents can only have one domicile, and the child custody order determining domicile is conclusive for all purposes.

In order to establish custody or to modify a custody arrangement, the court must determine what is in the “best interests” of the child.  The factors for making that determination are as follows:

  • The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child;
  • The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any;
  • The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs;
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
  • The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes;
  • The moral fitness of the parties involved;
  • The mental and physical health of the parties involved;
  • The home, school, and community record of the child;
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference;
  • The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents;
  • Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child; and
  • Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.