Legal Custody— refers to making decisions about the major issues affecting the child. These might include significant choices dealing with medical care, educational and religious matters. Decisions concerning the day-to-day matters, such as clothing, discipline and choice of care provider, is the responsibility of the parent with whom the child resides.
Physical Custody — is where the child will reside majority of the time and is assigned responsibility for the daily care. One parent is usually considered the custodial parent, but the Court may decide another individual should be the custodian. Michigan has abandoned the presumption favoring the mother as the custodial parent. Custody is challenged when more than one party wishes to be the custodial parent and makes timely and appropriate petition to the Court.
Joint Custody — the Court must consider awarding joint custody to both parties if requested. Joint custody means that a child shall reside alternately for specific periods of time with each of the parents (joint physical custody) or that the parents shall share decision-making authority as to important decisions affecting the child (joint legal). Typically, the Court will award joint legal custody with actual physical custody to one of the parents, which means shared decision-making. Joint custody does not eliminate the responsibility of child support.
The court will determine if joint custody is in the best interest of the child, by using the factors stated in the Michigan Child Custody Act. The Court will also consider whether the parties after the divorce can set their differences aside and work in a positive manner and agree concerning important decisions affecting the welfare of the child.
If custody is being disputed between the parties, between third parties, and/or between agencies, the court will base custody on the basis of the “best interest” of a child, The Friend of the Court may be asked to meet with the parties and do an investigation on the “ interest factors" and prepare a report to assist the Judge in his determination.
Custody can be changed following the Judgment of Divorce:
• A party filing a petition or motion with the Court for a hearing — this petition is likely to succeed only if circumstances have so significantly changed that the existing custodial arrangement is no longer in the child’s best interest.
• Parties consent (stipulate) to a custody change
Friend of the Court will assist those parties not represented by counsel in preparing a consent order and will provide the necessary forms with instructions.