Custody concerns pop up for a number of reasons. These include as divorce, legal separation, change of circumstances, or relocation of a parent. Many additional issues follow, such as where the child will primarily live, whether and when a parent will have parenting or visitation time, and whether a parent will have joint or sole custody of the child. Each of these matters is complicated under Michigan law and requires a high level of attention, sensitivity, skill and experience.
A custody decision will determine which parent will have physical and/or legal custody of the child. Physical custody decides where the child will primarily reside and who will care for the child on a daily basis. Legal custody deals with who will make major decisions concerning the child’s education, religion, medical care and other aspects of the child’s life. The result could either be sole custody for one parents or joint custody for both. This means either the rights are split between the parents, or one parent may hold the majority of the rights and the important obligations that go along with having those rights. Oakland County is in the Sixth Judicial Circuit, with our family courts being located at 1200 Telegraph Road in Pontiac. Having joint legal custody is what happens here. The result is that the parents have equal say in most major decisions for the child.
Whatever the case is, if you are concerned about your child’s custody, contact us online or give us a call today at our Farmington Hills or Lansing offices at (248) 479-6200.
The Custody Process
Deciding the physical custody of the children can be one of the most difficult custody decisions. Michigan’s Child Custody Act defines certain terms, like who can be considered a parent. It also outlines 12 factors that must be considered when determining the best interest of the child. Finally, it creates guidelines for the court to use when determining whether a parent will have physical custody of some sort. Our Oakland County family law attorneys know the Michigan Child Custody Act from front to back and we use it to get you successful results.
The Established Custodial Environment
One of the first things the courts look at when deciding who will be granted custody is where the child might have an “established custodial environment.” This looks to where the child has turned over an appreciable time, to find love, guidance, support, etc. The established custodial environment (ECE) is used to determine how much evidence is needed by the parent seeking a change in the “ECE”. The ECE can be with one parent or it can be with both parents.
The Present Custody Order
The next decision-making factor that the courts consider when deciding custody is whether or not there is a current custody order in place for the child. If you are filing for a divorce, this is probably a new custody case for you and your family and therefore there are no prior custody orders.
When there are no previous custody orders in place, the court first must determine the established custodial environment. That determines how much proof a parent needs if they seek to change the ECE. Once the “burden of proof” is set, the court looks at the 12 factors that make up the best interests of the child. This is how they make a proper custody decision. Those 12 factors are set out in MCL 722.23.
If, however, a custody order is already in place from a previous court order, then the process changes. Courts will be more likely to grant a new custody order if your circumstances as a parent have materially changed or if there is good cause to believe that the children would benefit from a different custody situation. It is up to the person seeking a new custody order to provide reason for reevaluating the current custody order. If proof is not provided, the previous custody order remains. If good cause or proof is provided, the court will continue to the third step.
Child Custody: Michigan’s “Best Interests of the Child”
The third step for a custody case is analyzing the 12 factors that make up the “best interests of the child.” MCL 722.23. These 12 factors need not be equally weighted. It is up to the judge to decide which factors are most important in any particular case. In Oakland County, judges will take into consideration the specific circumstances of each child and each case when they consider each of the 12 child custody factors.
Although three steps are outlined here, the actual case is a lot more complicated than simply three steps. Some of the complexities of Oakland County custody cases are explained in the brief overview above.
At The Kronzek Firm, we have a steady understanding of Michigan family law and we know how serious your child custody case is. Our experience and success in Oakland County has prepared us to help you find the best outcome for your custody case. We work above and beyond expectations to resolve custody issues and we do so in the most efficient and peaceful way possible. We try to create agreement between parents to avoid trial in front of a judge. However, our clients are our top priority and we are prepared to go to trial if necessary.
If you are in the midst of a child custody issue or believe that a dispute may arise, call us right away for help. Our number is (248) 479-6200. Our office address is 30300 Northwestern Highway. That’s the Gem Building near 13 Mile on Northwestern. Call today for an appointment.