A number of custody arrangements are possible. In each type of arrangement, the court must decide who will make major decisions about medical treatment, education, and any religious instruction. The court must also decide how the child’s time will be shared between the parties.

Parents are encouraged to reach their own agreements regarding custody. When parents cannot agree, the judge must decide by considering factors set forth in the Michigan Child Custody Act. These factors will be considered at a hearing where the parents may produce evidence about each factor.

At the request of either parent, the court must consider ordering joint custody. If the parents agree on joint custody, the court must order it unless the court determines that joint custody is not in the best interests of the child.

When deciding, the court must state on the record its reasons for granting or denying the request. The court may consider joint custody without a parent’s request. In addition to the normal factors considered when deciding custody, for joint custody the court must also consider whether the parents will be able to cooperate and generally agree concerning important decisions affecting the child’s welfare.

If the court determines that a child’s best interests are not adequately represented in the proceedings, the court may appoint a lawyer-guardian ad litem to represent the child. The court may require the parties to pay the lawyer-guardian ad litem fees based on their ability to pay.

Reasonable Parenting Time Policy

If your order states that the Parties have reasonable parenting time, the Friend of the Court will enforce this parenting time schedule.

Custody FAQs

How do I get an order for custody?
A petition requesting the court to grant you custody of your children must be filed with the court. If both parents agree and sign an agreement (stipulation and consent agreement), that agreement, if approved by the court, may be entered as a custody order.
Do I need to have an attorney to get custody?
It is not required that you have an attorney to file a petition for custody. However, there are many complicated issues involved in a custody case and therefore you may want to have an attorney represent you. The Friend of the Court cannot file a petition for custody for you.
Are there different kinds of custody?

Yes, a number of custody arrangements are possible. The most common are joint custody and sole custody.

Joint Custody:

Joint custody means an order of the court in which one or both of the following are provided:

• That the children live with one parent part of the time and with the other parent part of the time.
• That the parents both share in making decisions on important issues dealing with the children.

Sole Custody:

An order of the court which states that the children live with one parent and that parent is responsible for making decisions on important issues dealing with the child.

Do I need to have an attorney to get custody?
A petition to modify a custody order must be filed with the court, or the parents can sign a written agreement changing custody (stipulation and consent agreement), which if approved by the court, will change custody.
The other parent is not following the parenting time order. What can I do?
File a written complaint with the Friend of the Court office. If the Friend of the Court determines that either parent has violated the parenting time order, they have the responsibility to proceed with enforcement.
Do I have to get the court's permission to move more than 100 miles from my current home if I only have parenting time with my child?
Yes, unless the other parent agrees, both parents were already living 100 miles apart when the judge signed your court order, sole custody was granted to the other parent, or the move results in the child's legal residences being closer to each other than before the move.
How old does a child have to be before they can decide where to live?
When children reach the age of 18 years (or are determined to be emancipated by a judge), they can decide where to live. However, before age 18, the Child Custody Act requires the court to consider, "The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference." Judges usually place more emphasis on the preference of the child if the child demonstrates a greater level of maturity and understanding.
May I see my child's school, medical, and other records if my child lives with the other parent?
Michigan law gives both parents the right to see certain records regardless of the custody arrangement. That includes medical, dental, school, and day care records. In addition, both parents are entitled to receive advance notice of meetings that concern their child's education.

However, the Friend of the Court cannot enforce that law. You may wish to consult an attorney if you are denied any of those rights.

How do I get the court's approval to change the children's residence to a place not allowed by my current order?
Parties may agree to a change of residence (domicile) by signing an agreement (stipulation). This stipulation must be put in the form of an order and signed by a judge. It then becomes an order of the court. If you and the other parent cannot agree on the proposed change or domicile, you may file a motion that asks the court to enter an order approving the change. You must obtain a court order approving the move.
The other parent is not paying child support as ordered. What can I do?
Yes. Parenting time and child support orders are enforced separately.
Can I simply call the Friend of the Court and tell the office that my child is now living with me if my ex-spouse and I agree?
No. You will need to modify your court order and have it signed by a judge.
I have a parenting time order and my teenage child does not want to come for parenting time. What can I do?

The parents of the child are bound by the court orders. However, you may consider one or more of the following:

    1. You may want to see if you can work out a different parenting time arrangement with the child and the other parent.
    2. You can file a petition with the court requesting a change in your parenting time order.
    3. You can request the Friend of the Court enforce our parenting time order.
Do I have to let my children go for parenting time if it appears that the other parent has been drinking or using drugs?
That is your decision. If you make the decision to deny parenting time in these circumstances, you may be asked to explain to the court at a contempt hearing why you felt your decision was in the best interest of the children.
The other party is not sending or returning clothing or other personal items for our child. Is there anything the Friend of the Court can do?
The Friend of the Court follows the written order of the court. Unless your court order states each parent's responsibility for clothing, the Friend of the Court does not have any enforcement power.