Among the challenges divorce can present to couples is the working out of child custody disagreements. Although some couples are able to keep the best interests of their children separate from their own personal issues, many couples are not. In such cases, couples end up seeking to minimize their spouse’s involvement in the lives of the children.
Benefits of joint custody
It is well known that children do best when both parents continue to maintain a substantial presence in their lives after divorce. Ideally, parents would be able to work out their differences and come to a shared parenting or joint custody arrangement. When done well, such an arrangement can help to ensure that both parents are able to continue their work as parents even after divorce.
Inequitable treatment of families
Here in Michigan, unfortunately, joint custody is not actively encouraged by the legal system. In the vast majority of custody cases, sole custody is awarded to the mother.
In 2015, the House of Representatives introduced Bill 4141, which sought to amend the Child Custody Act of 1970. This would have created a presumption of joint custody in any custody dispute – unless there were conditions that warranted a different plan for the sake of the child’s welfare. Unfortunately, this bill never became law.
In 2017, the House tried again – this time introducing Bill 4691. Sadly, this effort was also unsuccessful and was never passed into law.
How Michigan courts determine custody
Therefore, under Michigan law, joint custody is often only considered upon request by either parent – though judges can consider it without a parent’s request. If both parents agree to joint custody, the judge is required to order it – unless doing so would not be in the best interests of the child.
In determining whether joint custody is appropriate, there are a variety of factors judges consider, but the primary consideration is whether joint custody is in the best interests of the child. This determination is rather fluid, and judges have a good deal of discretion in determining best interests. It is important for parents to make sure that they are well represented in these determinations. This is just one of the reasons it is important to work with an experienced family law attorney.