Custody and Parenting Time
While most custody and parenting time issues are settled outside of court, the “best interest” factors still guide negotiations and settlement.
Michigan law has two different sets of best interest factors that judges consider when deciding custody and parenting time.
The “custody” factors apply to how decisions are made for your children (legal custody), and whether the children’s best interests are served by living primarily with one parent (physical custody):
Factor (a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
Factor (b) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue educating and raising the child in the child’s religion or creed, if any.
Factor (c) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, and medical care or other remedial care recognized under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.
Factor (d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of continuing it.
Factor (e) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
Factor (f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.
Factor (g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
Factor (h) The child’s home, school, and community record.
Factor (i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the judge considers the child to be old enough to express a preference.
Factor (j) 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. A judge may not consider negatively for the purposes of this factor any reasonable action taken by a parent to protect a child or that parent from sexual assault or domestic violence by the child’s other parent.
Factor (k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
Factor (l) Any other factor the judge considers relevant.
Parenting time is the actual schedule parents use to share time with their children. Often, parents share “equal” parenting time, and the children go back and forth between each household spending equal time in each household.
Michigan law states that parenting time should be ordered in a frequency and duration to promote a strong relationship between the parent and the child. Parenting time is the right of the child, not of the parent.
Ideally, parents develop and agree on a schedule that will work for their kids. Kids who spend time in two households thrive when parents can be harmonious about the back and forth.
However, if parents cannot agree, judges decide a parenting time schedule based on two sets of factors. First, they look at the custody “best interest” factors.
Judges also look at a separate set of factors that is specific just to parenting time:
Factor (a) Any special needs of the child;
Factor (b) Whether the child is nursing;
Factor (c) Whether abuse or neglect of a child during parenting time is likely;
Factor (d) Whether abuse of a parent during parenting time is likely;
Factor (e) The inconvenience and impact on the child of traveling for parenting time;
Factor (f) Whether a parent is reasonably likely to exercise parenting time;
Factor (g) Whether a parent has frequently failed to exercise reasonable parenting time;
Factor (h) The threatened or actual detention of the child with the intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent or from a third person who has legal custody. A custodial parent’s temporary residence with the child in a domestic violence shelter shall not be construed as evidence of the custodial parent’s intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent;
Factor (i): Any other relevant factors.