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.