Divorce interferes with normal family functioning. The parent-child relationship undergoes significant changes that can make child-rearing more challenging.
Thus, Michigan courts do not take child custody and parenting time concerns lightly. The judge considers a comprehensive list of essential elements that can influence their decisions.
Child custody factors
State laws presume that joint custody can uphold the child’s well-being unless proven otherwise with clear and compelling proof. Whether the judge awards shared or sole custody, they further distinguish between legal or physical custody.
Legal custody is the right and responsibility for decision-making on the child’s education, health, religion and social affairs. Meanwhile, physical custody determines where the child resides daily.
To make a thorough custody determination, the judge pursues a deliberation over the child’s best interests:
- Existing emotional ties between the child and both parents
- Both parties’ capacity and disposition to provide the child’s basic (food, clothing and medical care), material and emotional needs
- Both parties’ overall fitness – moral, mental and physical conditions — and ability to maintain a stable and safe environment
- Child’s school and community activities, and reasonable preferences
- Potential cases of parental alienation or domestic violence
Aside from identifying which parent gets custody, parents must also reach a workable parenting time agreement to ensure both parties have continuing bonds with the child.
Parenting time factors
Parenting time is the amount of time each parent spends with the child. The court weighs the following points to establish the frequency, duration or type of arrangement to grant:
- Developmental requirements depending on the child’s age and other exceptional circumstances
- Safety concerns, such as possible abuse, neglect or domestic violence, during or as a result of exercising parenting time
- Transportation inconveniences or burdens when the child travels to and from each parent
- Compliance expectations or if parents will likely disobey court orders
The judge often leans on a schedule system that accommodates parents and the child’s growing needs. Thus, as tough as it seems, both parties must respect each other’s quality time with the child.
Why these factors matter
A detailed child custody or parenting time arrangement can provide a semblance of normalcy to the child’s routines despite the family’s new structure. It can also prevent issues from escalating into intense conflicts, which can be emotionally and financially draining. An experienced and transparent legal team can fight for parental rights and help navigate complexities.