GUIDANCE TO MAKE CUSTODY AGREEMENTS IN CHILDREN’S BEST INTERESTS
Child Custody Lawyers
Experienced Child Custody Attorney and Mediator
Who gets custody of the kids? That’s one of the biggest questions on parents’ minds when they consider ending a relationship with a spouse or co-parent. But child custody does not need to be a battle. Many parents can reach reasonable and workable agreements together, with professional guidance and assistance from an experienced child custody lawyer and/or mediator.
Child Custody in Michigan
If you are married and filing for divorce, child custody is something you must resolve within that divorce. Custody is also very important for non-married parents in Michigan and can be established by filing an action for custody.
Once custody has been established by an order of judgment, post-judgment child custody can be very difficult to change. Wendy Alton can help you understand and navigate issues of legal and physical custody while also keeping the child’s best interests at heart.
Most parents typically have joint legal custody. Legal custody is a parent’s right to make decisions about how the child is raised and key aspects of the child’s welfare, such as education, medical care, and religion. With joint legal custody, both parents must remain in Michigan and cannot move more than 100 miles away from the courthouse where their case was finalized. Additionally, with joint legal custody, both parents need to agree on things like:
- Where the child will attend school (what school district, private v. public school)
- How to address special needs
- Religious instruction
- Medical decisions, including prescription medications, medical procedures, and surgery
Joint legal custody works best when both parents are in alignment on what is best for their child, and when both parents can communicate and make decisions together. Sometimes a parent may be awarded sole legal custody to make all the decisions without input from the other parent. When parents fight about everything and agree on nothing, the court may make one parent the responsible party. This is also true in circumstances of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or if one parent is in prison.
If parents cannot reach an agreement on custody, the Court will decide the issue of custody by looking at what is in the “best interests of the child.” This involves an evaluation of the following 12 factors:
- The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
- The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection and guidance, and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.
- The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
- The moral fitness of the parties involved.
- The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
- The home, school and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
- The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.
- Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was direct against or witnessed by the child.
- Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.
Physical custody involves where the child primarily resides. We often refer to parenting time instead of physical custody.
Changes to Child Custody
As we mentioned before, post-judgment child custody can be very difficult to change. Before a change in custody can be considered, a parent has to meet a threshold determination that there is proper cause or a change in circumstances. If that threshold is met, then you must show by clear and convincing evidence that the proposed custodial change is in the best interest of the child. Clear and convincing evidence is the highest evidentiary standard in family law cases.
The Right Lawyer for Your Child Custody Concerns
The goal of any child custody arrangement is to ensure children have a relationship with both parents that encourages continued parental responsibility and involvement. Wendy Alton can help you come up with a plan—either through negotiation, mediation, arbitration or litigation—that provides consistency, structure and support for the whole family.
Contact Ann Arbor Divorce Attorney Wendy Alton
Contact Wendy online or call 734-673-3567 to request a complimentary consultation. Discuss your child custody issues directly with Wendy Alton and she’ll help you explore options on how best to proceed.