Unraveling the Complexities of Local Custody Laws

Divorce and separation bring about numerous considerations and changes. Child and spousal support, division of assets, and many other factors come into play. Of course, child custody is among the most important aspects to arise in these situations. It’s often the most emotionally charged element and certainly one of the more complicated as well. 

Child custody laws in Michigan, like in many other states, are created with the welfare of the children in mind. Several factors are taken into account when determining custody arrangements. If you’re facing a divorce with children involved, understanding your local custody laws is essential. Read on to learn more about child custody and the factors that influence it.

Different Types of Child Custody

In Michigan, child custody is divided into two main categories: legal and physical. Legal custody refers to parents’ responsibilities to make decisions about a child’s upbringing. That may include education, medical care, and religion to name a few aspects. Legal custody can be granted to one parent or both. Physical custody, on the other hand, is who the child lives with. That, too, can be awarded on a sole or joint basis. If only one parent is granted physical custody, the other parent may be given visitation rights. 

Determining Custody

Custody is determined according to the best interests of the child. Courts consider the child’s age, physical and emotional health, and the child’s preferences. Though Michigan law states that children can’t decide who they want to live with, their wishes do factor into the equation. Each parent’s ability to provide for the child financially, physically, and emotionally is a major consideration as well.

Creating Parenting Plans

In many cases, parents are able to come to an agreement on custody arrangements and visitation, but some can’t. If that happens, the court steps in and creates a parenting plan for them. These plans lay out custody and visitation terms, such as which parent has custody on various holidays and school breaks, transportation arrangements, and other details. This helps to create a stable routine and environment for the child in question. 

Parental Rights

Child custody decisions can impact parental rights, but they don’t necessarily negate them. If one parent is awarded sole custody of a child, the other parent typically still has certain rights. Those may include access to the child’s medical and school records and, as noted earlier, visitation. In some instances, a parent may be forced to give up his or her parental rights, but those usually involve extenuating circumstances.


If a custodial parent, or the parent who has primary custody, wants to move with a child to another city or state, the noncustodial parent must be notified in advance. He or she can then contest the move. In such a case, the court will consider the reasons for the move and its possible effects on the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent to determine whether it’s in the child’s best interests.

Navigating Child Custody Laws

These are the basics of child custody laws in Michigan. No two cases are the same, and many factors are taken into account when making custody arrangements. Overall, the goal is the ensure the physical and emotional well-being of the child. Keep in mind, custody arrangements aren’t necessarily set in stone. If one parent’s circumstances change or the custodial parent ultimately can’t provide for the child’s needs, changes may be made to foster the child’s best interests. 

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