A number of custody arrangements are possible. The most common are:
Joint Legal Custody: Means that parents will communicate and cooperate with one another and attempt to reach mutual decisions regarding major issues affecting their children. This decision making process includes, but is not limited to: major medical decisions, educational decisions, and religious upbringing, if any.
Joint Physical Custody: Means that children live with one parent part of the time and the other parent part of the time. This time does not have to be equal. The parent who has care of the children at any given time is responsible for routine decisions regarding the children.
Primary Physical Custody: Means that the children live primarily with one parent.
Primary Legal Custody: Means that the children live with one parent and that parent is responsible for making major decisions regarding the children.
Parents are encouraged to reach their own agreements regarding custody. When parents cannot agree, the judge must decide by considering all of the following factors of the Michigan Child Custody Act.(MCL 722.23;MSA 25.312(3))
(a) The love, affection and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
(b) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection and guidance and the continuation of the educating and raising of the child in its religion or creed, if any.
(c) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care and other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
(f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
(h) The home, school and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
(j) The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent.
(k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against, or witnessed by the child.
(l) Any other factor considered by the court to be of relevance to a particular child custody dispute.
Custody Questions and Answers
How do I get an order for custody?
A petition must be filed requesting custody. If parents agree, they may sign an agreement (stipulated agreement and order, available at the FOC Office), and obtain the judge’s approval. That agreement can then be entered as a custody order.
How do I change an existing order for custody?
A petition must be filed to change a custody order. If parents agree, they may sign an agreement (stipulated agreement and order, available at the FOC Office) and obtain the judge’s approval. That agreement will then change the custody order.
Can I file my own petition for custody?
You may file your own petition. Petition packets are available at the FOC Office, known as an In Pro Per or Pro Se (which means, essentially, “on your own”) petition. However, it is important to remember that the court will still hold you to the same rules to which an attorney would be held. There may be many complex issues involved in a custody case and you may wish to have an attorney represent you. The Friend of the Court cannot file a petition for you, nor can they provide you with an attorney.
Is there any way the Friend of the Court can assist parties in reaching an agreement regarding custody?
The Friend of the Court will provide domestic relations mediation whenever there is a custody dispute. Mediation allows an impartial third party to assist parents in settling their custody dispute.
What happens if I have an order for custody and the other parent does not return the child to me as stated in the court order?
1) You may contact the Friend of the Court and request enforcement.
2) You may contact your attorney.
3) If you have reason to believe the other parent does not intend to return the child, you may contact the police or the prosecuting attorney and request that criminal charges be filed.
Does the Friend of the Court have an obligation to investigate alleged abuse or neglect of a child?
No. Allegations of abuse or neglect should be reported to the Protective Services unit of your local Department of Human Services (Department of Social Services) office. The Friend of the Court has a duty, when ordered by the court, to conduct an investigation when a party files a custody, or parenting time, petition. Claims of abuse or neglect should be disclosed to the Friend of the Court during their investigation.
Can my child enroll in the school district I live in, even though the child lives with the other parent most of the time?
Michigan law provides that a child may enroll in a school district where either parent resides, regardless of which parent has custody. Where a child regularly resides in two school districts as a result of a joint custody order, the child may attend school in either or both of the districts.