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How do Michigan courts decide child custody cases?

On Behalf of | Apr 26, 2024 | Divorce

Like other states, Michigan courts decide custody cases based on what the judge believes is in the best interests of the child.

To put it another way, if anyone is supposed to be a “winner” in a child custody case, it should be the couple’s minor children. The reason parents wind up in court is because they cannot agree on what is best for their kids.

Again like other states, Michigan law requires that judges use several guideposts, or factors, when considering what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the children involved.

What sort of questions might be going through a judge’s mind?

Michigan law lists 12 factors, although one of them is a catch-all that allows a judge to consider other important information that they believe has an impact on their decision.

While many of these factors may sound a bit intimidating, they really boil down to some practical questions about the parents, the child, and the family’s surrounding financial and social circumstances. Here are some examples:

  • How does a parent’s work schedule affect the day-to-day?
  • What is the child’s current home and school situation? Do they have regular activities and friendships? Which parent could better provide ongoing stability for these relationships and activities?
  • Does either parent have a mental or physical health problem or a history of misconduct, including abuse or addiction-related behavior, that might make it hard for them to do what is best for the children and keep them safe?
  • Does a parent have a reliable job, reliable transportation and other support to provide for their children?
  • Historically, which parent has been giving the children care and emotional support at home?
  • If the child has siblings, is it possible to keep the siblings together?
  • Do the children have a preference? This becomes a more important question as a child matures as a child must be of a certain age for the court to consider their preference. However, it is important to note that in Michigan, a minor child never has absolute say over where they are going to live.

While this is an overview of what a judge might be wondering, what is in the best interests of the child involves many more such questions and in-depth analysis. It is important for a parent in the West Michigan area to understand how Michigan’s custody factors will apply to their case.  If possible, hiring an experienced family law attorney to assist in these types of matters is the best first step.  Contact our office if you would like to schedule a free initial consultation.