Guide to Child Custody Laws in Michigan
Parents seeking custody of their children in Michigan may be overwhelmed by the family court process. Many divorcing couples have never even been in court before their divorce and custody dispute began, and it can be hard to understand the child custody laws in Michigan that regulate judges' decisions. In general, the state uses a single overriding guideline to determine child custody issues: the best interests of the child. This guide will help to explain what child custody laws in Michigan mean for your custody dispute and how the state determines what is in a child's best interest.
Parenting Plans and Mediation
Many times, parents prefer figuring out custody arrangements on their own, rather than having a judge hand down a custody order. This can save substantial amount of time and money for parents, and child custody laws in Michigan prefer that parents find a grounds for agreement. If you cannot negotiate on your own, the court may order you into a process called mediation.
Mediation, which is explicitly allowed by child custody laws in Michigan, is a process that helps you work with your ex-spouse to make decisions about custody that will be good for you and your child. The mediator can help you focus on the task at hand, rather than getting sidetracked by emotions or issues that aren't relevant to negotiating a child custody deal.
Even when you and your spouse do work out a parenting plan, it is not final until a judge approves it. In some cases, child custody laws in Michigan allow a judge to decide that your parenting plan is unacceptable. If this happens, you will be told why the judge finds it unacceptable and either given an opportunity to correct the problem or given a custody order from the judge that corrects it.
Can a Child Decide?
Many people believe that at a certain age, children are allowed to decide whether to live with their mother or their father. In Michigan, this is not entirely true (though in several other states, it is). Child custody laws in Michigan take into consideration “the reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.”
In order to determine if your child is old enough to express a preference, the judge will talk to the child. They will also see if your child may just be expressing a preference for one parent due to recently spending a great deal of time with that parent. Child custody laws in Michigan do not ever permit a minor to have final decision-making power over their custody arrangements—a judge may still send a 17 year old to either parent, even if the teenager has expressed a preference, if there are compelling reasons to do so.
Factors Involved in Custody
In addition to the child's preference, child custody laws in Michigan look at several other factors in determining what is in the best interests of the child. Some of these factors include the ability of each parent to provide for their child, the stability of the home environment, the moral fitness of each parent, the physical and mental health of the parents and child, and the child's ties to his or her home, school, and community.