Elkouri Heath, PLC

248-344-9700

39555 Orchard Hill Place, Suite 215, Novi, MI 48375

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Common Questions About Child Custody in MichiganIf you are a parent who is unmarried or planning to divorce, you may have many questions about child custody in Michigan. Parents are encouraged to work out their own child custody arrangements, but understandably, this is not always possible. If parents cannot come to an agreement regarding custody and parenting time, the court will intervene and determine a child custody schedule on behalf of the parents. In Michigan, the Child Custody Act dictates how the court makes decisions about parenting time and custody.

Joint Custody or Sole Custody?

There are two types of custody under Michigan law: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is a parent’s decision-making authority and physical custody is where the child physically lives. Parents with joint legal custody consult with one another regarding major child-related decisions whereas sole legal custody assigns all decision-making responsibilities to one parent. In a joint physical custody arrangement, the child maintains a residence with both parents. Typically, one parent in a joint custody arrangement is the primary custodian and the other parent enjoys child visitation, technically called parenting time in Michigan law. When a parent has sole physical custody, the child resides only with them.

Best Interest Factors Considered During Custody Disputes

When parents cannot agree on custody issues, the court will make a determination based on the child’s best interests. The Michigan Child Custody Act lists the factors used to evaluate what type of child custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest. These factors include but are not limited to:

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Novi, MI child custody lawyerParenting is a job that never ends, even if you and your partner are no longer together. When you choose to get a divorce, you will likely need to create a joint custody arrangement, and both parents will typically have parenting time (sometimes referred to as visitation) with the children. Regardless of your child custody arrangements, it is important to provide a supportive and caring environment for your children--even if the divorce is not amicable. Adjusting to new parenting time arrangements can be difficult, but the following tips can help you and your child become accustomed to the changes.

1. Keep a Smile On

Parenting time should be a positive experience, especially for your children. Even if you and your ex do not get along, it is likely that you will still see them when picking up or dropping off children. During these times, it is important to avoid exposing your children to conflict. Refrain from arguing in front of the children or speaking negatively about your co-parent to them. If you have issues with your former spouse that you need to deal with, you should set up a different time and meeting place to discuss those issues when the children are not present.

2. Be On Time

Since you do not get to be with your children full-time, you need to make them your priority when you are with them. Make sure you are prompt when picking them up and try to reschedule any work calls that you may have during that time period. Make a calendar and share it with your former spouse so that there is no miscommunication about who will be taking care of the children.

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MI family lawyerThe majority of parents who get divorced will share parenting time of their children. It is rare these days that you see one parent given sole custody and decision-making responsibilities and the other parent left with nothing. Most divorce courts recognize that unless a parent is abusive or detrimental to the child’s wellbeing, it is in the child’s best interest to have both parents active and present in his or her life. Co-parenting is never easy, especially if your divorce was less-than-amicable -- which most are not. Though it will not come without serious time and effort on your part, successful co-parenting can be achieved and these tips can help:

Realize You Now Have a Different Relationship with Your Ex

Though you are no longer married, your relationship with your ex will be forever because of your child. It will not be the same relationship that you had during your marriage and that is important to realize. It is easier to think of your co-parenting relationship like a business relationship - it does not matter how you feel about your ex. What matters is the happiness and wellbeing of your child.

Work on Your Communication

Communication is key to successful co-parenting. Though you may still have feelings of anger or resentment toward your ex, you must put those aside for the sake of your child. It can help to keep a business-like tone when talking to your ex. It reminds both you and them that your new relationship is not one that concerns feelings. It can also be helpful to keep your conversations strictly about your child. It does not matter what you want or they want - what does your child want and need?

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MI family lawyerDivorcing with children brings about many different types of issues that couples divorcing without children do not have to deal with. One of the things that must be determined when you are getting divorced is how you will parent your child where your child will be spending their time. Typically, Michigan courts prefer the parents to try to make their own determinations about child custody and parenting time before they turn to the court to make these decisions for them. There is a better chance that orders will be followed when parents are involved in making these decisions. When a court is called in to help determine parenting time, many different factors must be considered before a final order is issued.

Michigan Courts and Making Decisions About Parenting Time

Like many states in the U.S., Michigan makes determinations about parenting time based on the best interests of the child. It is assumed that it is in the best interest of every child to have a secure relationship with both parents. Michigan courts also believe that every child has a right to spend time with each parent unless the court finds that it would severely harm the child’s mental, physical or emotional health. The court will examine a variety of factors when making decisions about parenting time, including:

  • Whether or not the child has any special needs;
  • Whether the child is a nursing child and receives substantial nutrition through nursing;
  • Whether or not there is any likelihood of any abuse or neglect of the child or parent during parenting time;
  • The distance between where each parent lives and the burden the travel would have on the child;
  • The likeliness of each parent to follow the parenting time order; and
  • Any other factor that the court deems to be relevant.

Get in Touch with an Oakland County Child Custody Lawyer

Each child has an inherent right to have a loving and meaningful relationship with both of their parents and both parents have the right to spend time with their child. It can be difficult and sometimes stressful to come to an agreement about parenting time with your ex, but it is important that you are able to create a parenting time agreement that allows both you and your ex to spend time with your child. If you are going through a divorce, you should contact a Novi, MI child custody attorney. Elkouri Heath, PLC can help you create an agreement that benefits not only your child, but also you and your child’s other parent. Call the office today at 248-344-9700 to schedule a consultation.

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MI custody lawyerGenerally speaking, Michigan law holds that it is in a child’s best interest to maintain continuous relationships with both parents after a divorce. But what if you suspect that your ex is using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol or prescription medications? For example, your ex might appear drunk or high when the children are picked up or dropped off, or the children might tell you that they have seen drug use or excessive drinking.

When the safety of your children is at risk, and you are unable to work out a satisfactory solution with your ex directly, you may need to take legal action. Your attorney can file a motion with the family court requesting specific actions or changes to your parenting time arrangements to protect the best interests of the children. Here are some of your options.

Request Testing and/or Investigation for Substance Abuse

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Michigan child support, parenting time, Farmington Hills family law attorney, parental relocation, parenting time orderFor a divorcing couple with minor children, the process of developing financial support and co-parenting agreements that meet the needs of the whole family can be both complicated and exhausting. 

Once it is done, you hope the original agreement will work until the children reach majority, but then fate intervenes. Parents may relocate, change jobs, have their working hours modified, have a significant change in income, or be stricken by a serious illness. Children may change schools, have ever-changing extracurricular activity schedules, or develop new medical issues. These are just a few of the many reasons that may necessitate a revision of your existing child-care agreement.

How Child Care Agreements are Documented in a Divorce

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child support payments, parenting time, Farmington Hills family law attorney, Michigan family law trends, Michigan divorceWhen working through a divorce, it is common to feel lonely and wonder how you will cope on your own. Moreover, if you have children to care for, worrying about how you will manage the new complexities of divided childcare costs and parenting time is natural.

While every family’s situation is unique, stepping back and looking at statewide outcomes and trends can provide a helpful perspective. 

Michigan Marriage and Divorce Numbers

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Michigan paternity laws, parenting time, Oakland County family law attorney, unmarried parents, parenting agreementsNearly 40 percent of all Michigan babies are born to unmarried parents (figures for 2014–2016). Yet, despite how common it is, the birth of a child to unmarried parents creates some complex legal issues, and misconceptions abound.

For example, a single mother might assume she can establish legal paternity without the father’s agreement, just by filling in a father’s name on the birth certificate. Or, an unmarried father might assume that informally paying some of the child’s expenses is enough to “earn” him the legal rights of a father, such as the right to spend time with the child and share in parenting decisions. However, under Michigan law, both assumptions are incorrect.

Consider three important factors that all unmarried mothers and fathers should know about the Michigan laws that govern paternity, child support, and parenting time.

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What Rights Do Custodial Parents Have?

In some Michigan divorces, sole custody is granted to one parent, rather than splitting parenting time between the two. The parent with custody is referred to as the custodial parent, and he or she has certain rights that the other parent does not. When sole custody is granted, the custodial parent has complete authority to make decisions on behalf of the child, such as medical care, education, and where to live.

While it's not the most common decision, it's not unusual for a judge to grant sole child custody to one parent. The courts generally maintain the opinion that it is in the best interest of the child to spend time with both parents, but a variety of factors can lead a judge to decide that one parent deserves full control over the welfare of the child. Judges may grant sole custody if the other parent is incapable of caring for the child, has a history of making poor decisions, or would likely make decisions that would put the child in danger.

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