A number of custody arrangements are possible. The most common are:
- Joint Legal Custody: 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: The 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.
- Sole Custody: 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 may decide by considering all of the following factors of the Michigan Child Custody Act (MCL 722.23).
- 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 the continuation of the education and raising the child in its religion or creed, if any.
- 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.
- 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 reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
- 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.
- Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against, or witnessed by the child.
Any other factor considered by the court to be of relevance to a particular child custody dispute.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Custody
Can I file my own petition to change an existing custody order?
You may file your own petition. The Friend of the Court will provide forms and instructions to file this type of 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, tell you what to say in a petition, or provide you with an attorney.
The petitions and instructions for changing custody are located in the second floor lobby of the Friend of the Court Office and under the "Forms" section of this website.
After a petition for change of custody has been filed, and we cannot reach our own agreement, what does the Friend of the Court do?
If directed by the judge, the Friend of the Court will conduct an investigation and file a written report and recommendation based upon the factors listed in the Michigan Child Custody Act. A fee will be assessed by the Friend of the Court against the party requesting the change before the investigation is begun.
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?
- You may contact the Friend of the Court and request enforcement.
- You may contact your attorney.
- If you have reason to believe the other parent does not intend to return the child, you may contact the police and request that parental kidnapping charges be filed.
My order states that I cannot move my children from the State of Michigan without approval from the court. How do I get the courts approval?
If the parties mutually agree to a change of domicile and they sign a written agreement, it may be entered as an order, if approved by the court. If the parties cannot mutually agree on a change of domicile, you must file a petition on your own behalf or contact an attorney to help you file the petition. Notification to the Friend of the Court or filing a petition does not allow you to move from the state, prior to a court order being entered.
Petition forms and instructions regarding change of domicile/residence are available in the second floor lobby of the Friend of the Court Office and under the "Forms" section of this website.
Does the Friend of the Court have authority 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 Family Independence Agency 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 its investigation for its use in recommending custody or parenting time.
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. When 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.