Willingham & Coté, P.C.
Child Custody & Parenting Time

The Child Custody Act

The Child Custody Act controls parenting time privileges as well as custody disputes. The statute creates a presumption that it is in the best interest of the child to have a strong relationship with both parents. Courts order parenting time in efforts to promote a strong relationship between the child and both parents. A child custody order is never set in stone and may be modified pending the resolution of the divorce, based on a change in circumstances, and in post judgment proceedings.

Once you file for divorce or for a child custody order, the Court will schedule an appointment with the Friend of the Court to establish an order for child custody, parenting time, and child support. The first appointment will be with an investigator in efforts to assist the parties to resolve their custody dispute.  There are two forms of custody in Michigan: Legal Custody and Physical Custody.

  • Legal Custody is the right of one parent or both to be involved in the major life decisions of the child such as legal, medical, health, school, extracurricular activities, etc.
  • Physical Custody is a determination of the physical location of the child with one parent or both.

What Determines The Best Interest of the Child?

If the parents cannot agree on the legal and physical custody of the child, the Friend of the Court will use the 12 factors pursuant to the “best interests of the child” in accordance with MCL 722.23 to determine a temporary order regarding custody and parenting time.

The Friend of the Court will weigh and evaluate all of these factors to try to determine the best custodial arrangement. If you disagree with the Friend of the Court’s initial assessment, you can file an objection to request a hearing wherein evidence will be received by the Court to determine the custodial arrangement in the best interests of your child.

We have the knowledge and litigation experience to develop your record at the hearing to satisfy the factors listed above.

Parenting Time vs. Custody

There is a difference between a change in parenting time and a change in physical custody. A change in parenting time is measured by the total amount of time awarded to one parent over the other. If the change in actual time really does not change and it is a change in schedule, this does not result in a change in custody, but a change in parenting time.

For example, the appellate courts in a case wherein a father had two weekends per month and it was later reduced to one long weekend per month and he was provided more time in the summer to make up for the time he lost in losing the second weekend per month, the appellate courts held it was a change in parenting time. The trial court’s modification of defendant’s parenting time, which was minimal and did not significantly alter the number of defendant’s parenting time days, was in the minor child’s best interests because it allowed the child to participate in social activities and extracurricular activities. This means that the court could amend the schedule without evaluating the “best interest of the child factors.”

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