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Michigan Family Law Blog

Monday, December 21, 2020

Child Custody: Joint vs. Sole. Physical vs. Legal

Divorce is a complicated process, especially when trying to navigate child custody concerns. Michigan divorce attorneys find that most parenting questions during divorce arise from confusion surrounding custodial rights, specifically joint vs. sole custody and physical vs. legal custody. For a better understanding of general parental rights in Michigan divorce, let’s examine child custody.

Child Custody in Michigan Divorce

Michigan courts categorize parental and child rights under the umbrella of child custody. Child custody refers to the amount of time each parent will spend with the child(ren) and each parent’s right to be involved in decision-making as it pertains to the child(ren).

Factors influencing a court's decisions regarding child custody issues are varied and particular to each child custody case. However, custody arrangements are generally structured to promote and maintain a strong parent-child bond whenever possible, but not to the detriment of the child’s physical, mental, or emotional welfare.

What is Joint Custody?

Michigan law supports the involvement of both parents in the child's life. If either parent requests joint custody of a minor child, the court must order it, absent harm to the child. The two types of joint custody are:

1. Joint Physical Custody in Michigan

When joint physical custody of a child is awarded, the court will specify times for each parent to spend with the minor child. When deciding joint physical custody, the court will generally detail a parenting schedule including alternating weeks, weekends, holidays, and/or vacation times.

Parents are responsible for routine and emergency decision making during their allotted custodial parenting time.

2. Joint Legal Custody in Michigan

Joint legal custody provides that both parents share in important decisions related to the welfare of the child, including decisions regarding education, medical treatment, and religious upbringing. Joint legal custody is independent of the parenting time awarded by the court to either parent.

What is Sole Custody?

There are instances where the Michigan Courts might award custody of a minor child to one parent alone, known as sole custody. Sole custody may be inclusive of both physical and legal custody of the child, or may be split as in cases of sole physical custody and joint legal custody.

In cases where it is less disruptive to the child to live with one parent, sole physical custody may be granted, while preserving both parents joint legal custody. Or, in cases where parents cannot work cooperatively for the child’s benefit, sole legal and physical custody may be awarded to one parent over the other.

Again, it is important to note that the court will make every attempt to preserve the parent-child relationship and effect an order of joint custody whenever possible.

How a Michigan Divorce Attorney Can Help You with Child Custody

Even in the best divorce scenario, emotions are bound to run high. Each party wants to be treated fairly, but eroded trust can cloud decision-making, especially regarding custody-related matters. It’s important to remember that your children are not property to be fought over, but rather casualties of the divorce process that require special attention for their physical and emotional needs to be met.

A respected and experienced Michigan divorce lawyer can help provide an impartial overview of your case and orchestrate a child custody arrangement in the best interests of your child. Contact our office today for a comprehensive assessment of your Michigan divorce and child custody case.


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