Child Custody Laws in Michigan


As obvious as it may seem, one must officially be the parent of a child to effectively assert parental rights over minor children. Those rights may be obtained in a variety of ways. However, it is important to note this as often times close relatives (grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc.), natural parents whose parental rights have been terminated or step-parents may not understand that they do not have standing to challenge child custody. The state of Michigan gives parents great deference in how to raise and rear their children. The voices of all others are unlikely to be heard unless complaints are made to the police or child protective services. And even under those circumstances, actually obtaining custody rights are a long shot for anyone other than close family members.

Types of Custody

There are two kinds of custody in Michigan: physical and legal. Either flavor may be awarded solely to one parent or jointly to both parents (although it would appear that it would be inappropriate for a judge to order sole legal/joint physical custody). Physical custody gives actual possession or control over a minor child to one or both parents. Legal custody gives a parent (s) the right to make impactful decisions on the part of their children (school, doctor, religion, etc.). Where parties agree on a custody arrangement, judges rarely reject such agreements. If the parties cannot agree, trials are held and judges award custody based on what is in the best interests of the child.

Best Interests of the Child

There are twelve factors to be considered when determining what is in the child’s best interests. Every judge evaluates these factors in their own way, however, they are required to consider every factor in making a decision. Equal weight is not required to be given to all twelve factors. Instead, judges will evaluate the totality of all facts and circumstances in determining what is in the best interests of a child. The factors can be found here.

Modification of Child Custody

Modifying a child custody order in Michigan is a two-step process. First, proper cause or a change in circumstances since the original order was entered must exist. Second, the court must determine whether modifying the previous order is in the child’s best interests. The burden of proof on making that determination is set on whether there is an established custodial environment. What does this all mean? It is very difficult, absent significant and often times extraordinary circumstances, to modify child custody. Therefore, considerable thought should be made in coming to a decision on whether to sign off on a custody arrangement at the time of divorce.For additional child custody information, click here.

Hire a Custody Attorney in Michigan Today

Akiva Goldman & Associates are experienced family law attorneys serving the Metro Detroit area and beyond. Call us today for a free initial consultation at 586-268-2400.