When a couple divorces, a number of issues must be resolved regarding the future. One of the most important things a couple must deal with is how they will divide parenting time. Michigan uses the "best interest of the child" standard if parents are unable to come to their own parenting agreement following a divorce. However, it is often best for families if parents are able to work collaboratively to try to resolve custody issues outside of court.
Different Custody Options During Michigan Divorce
Parents can divide parenting time with their children after divorce in a number of different ways. Some common options include:
- Joint or shared custody: With joint or shared custody, parents split parenting time with their children. Parents may share time on an equal basis or may decide what time share arrangement works best for their family. There are different types of joint custody arrangements based on the needs of the parent and children. For example, children may trade off weeks at their parents house, or may spend some nights each week at each parent's home.
- Primary custody: With a primary custody arrangement, one parent spends the majority of time with the child and provides the majority of child care. The other parent may share time with the child, seeing the child on weekends or on an occasional basis. In some cases, a parent will have very limited visitation time or will have supervised visitation only.
- Sole custody: A sole custody arrangement is generally appropriate only in situations where one parent does not want to be involved in a child's life or cannot be involved in a child's life due to issues associated with neglect or abuse. Whenever possible, parents should try to find some way to share custody to make sure a child can continue to build a relationship with both parents after a divorce.
Parents should discuss the different options and determine what is best by taking into account factors including who has provided primary care for the children, each parent's work schedule, the ability of the child to continue building relationships with extended family, and the parent's ability to provide a safe and supportive home. If the parents are not able to come to an agreement on custody, these are some of the things which the court will consider in determining what custody arrangement is in a child's best interests.
In addition to making decisions on parenting time, parents also need to determine who will have legal custody. Legal custody is decision-making authority, and parents can share it or one parent alone can have legal custody. The decision on legal custody should be made when considering how parenting will be done after divorce.