As My Child’s Father, Can I Get Joint Custody in Michigan?

In Michigan, once your paternity is established, you, as the father, are then in a position to file a court case and obtain the same rights as the mother of your child. For example, these rights may include obtaining court orders about your child’s physical and legal custody, making all decisions concerning your child, spending equal and quality time with your child, and supporting them throughout their upbringing.

You and your ex-wife, or soon to be ex-wife, may decide to agree to share joint custody of your child, commonly referred to as 50/50 custody. Simply put, 50/50 custody gives you and your ex-spouse the right to evenly split the custody, sharing your child’s attention and contributing equally throughout their lives. This arrangement allows you to have the same amount of time with the child as the mother has.

Your experienced Southfield divorce lawyer , through the Michigan courts can help you create specific schedules allowing your child to spend time with both of you as equally as possible. 

These schedules are usually very flexible, but the alternating week schedule is one of the most common. Here, your child will spend seven days with you and then seven days with your former wife.

You can also do other versions of this schedule where you don’t have to go so long between parenting time with your child, such as using a 5-2-2-5 schedule. This schedule would mean that you have every Monday and Tuesday overnight, and the mother has every Wednesday and Thursday over night, and then you alternate the three day weekend every week, from Friday to Monday. This allows you to have five nights the first week and then two nights the second week, then back to week one.

Unlike many other states where your child’s mother may have the advantage, the “Child Custody Act” attempts to be as “gender-neutral” as possible in Michigan. When reviewing the best interest of the child factors, there is not a consideration for gender, but instead looking at other more important things in a child’s life.

However, the law does favor the primary caregiver, which may be the mother of the child in a given arrangement. Therefore, It’s still critical to your custody battle to have the professional advice, guidance, and knowledge of your Southfield or Sterling Heights divorce lawyer at all times.

What Happens If My Ex-spouse and I Cannot Agree on 50/50 Custody?

There are two types of custody; legal and physical custody. Legal custody gives you the right to make important decisions about your children. Decisions such as where they go to school, their religion, and medical decisions. Legal custody, when it is shared, also limits both parents from being able to move more than 100 miles or out of state. Physical custody refers to where they reside.

If both of you cannot agree on physical custody and parenting time of your child, then the judge will decide these issues based on what’s in your child’s best interests. The judge will make this decision based on the twelve best interest of the child factors:

(a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.

(b) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.

(c) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.

(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.

(e) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.

(f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.

(g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.

(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.

(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.

(j) The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents. A court may not consider negatively for the purposes of this factor any reasonable action taken by a parent to protect a child or that parent from sexual assault or domestic violence by the child’s other parent.

(k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.

(l) Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.

If this question arises, it’s a legal area where the experience, guidance, and aggressive nature to negotiate on behalf of your Michigan divorce lawyer will be invaluable to you and your child.

What Are the Possible Negatives Of 50/50 Custody?

All these cases differ, but commonly the “pros” of a 50/50 schedule all center around the fact that your child gets to see both of you an equal amount of time. Usually, this helps you, and your child, adapt to their new “split” parent situation in the best way possible.

The “cons” usually are that this type of arrangement doesn’t always make rational sense or fit into your work schedules and the other activity schedule of your child.

For example, your child’s age may be a significant deciding factor in what type of parenting plan arrangement works for all of you. Let’s say your child is under a year old, and ex-wife is breastfeeding your baby. In this case, your child must spend much more time with the mother. However, as your child gets older, most custody arrangements can, and usually do change. So, for teenagers, an alternating week’s schedule may work fine, and would be totally different from a two year old child.

Any experienced divorce lawyer will advise you that a parenting time schedule for your child may change over time.  But do not assume that you will be able to change the schedule whenever you want, because changing a parenting time schedule, or even custody, in the future is difficult and requires very specific things under Michigan law. You and your ex-spouse’s financial circumstances may alter; someone may have to move, get ill, etc. However, by working closely with your empathetic, experienced, and thorough Southfield or Sterling Heights child custody lawyer, you can always amend and alter these arrangements so that they will be beneficial to all parties concerned, assuming you can prove either proper cause, or change of circumstances, or do so by agreement.

Can I Still Have 50/50 Custody If I Am An Unmarried Parent?

The simple answer to this sometimes critical question is, yes, you can.

However, under current Michigan law, if there is no court order, the two parents listed on your child’s birth certificate DO NOT have equal rights regarding their child if they were never married.

Typically at birth, an Affidavit of Parentage is signed, and this document gives the mother of the child 100% of legal and physical custody rights to the child. However, you can still have 50/50 (or joint) custody and, for example, retain the right to take your child on extended vacations, have them stay with you for equal time, and more if you file a child custody case in the court system.

If you are in this situation, it’s even more vital to address your options with a qualified Michigan divorce lawyer that’s experienced working with unmarried couples.  You will at first, as the father, feel as if you have no legal rights to the child, and that is, for the most part true.  However, that is all easily changed by filing a custody case and then having a court determine legal custody, physical custody, parenting time, child support, and other child related expenses and rights.

You still have viable legal options; your knowledgeable custody lawyer will thoroughly explore your options and explain them in detail.

I Want to Pursue 50/50 Custody In Michigan, How Should I Proceed?

Divorce is very rarely a straightforward, stressless, or a simple legal process. This can be especially true when discussing emotional and vital matters such as the custody of your child. Even though, as a father in Michigan, it is possible for you to get 50/50 legal custody (or “joint custody”) of your child, as well as shared physical custody, whether that happens is wholly dependent on the particular details of your case and what court orders get signed. Taking the correct action is critical, because decisions made regarding custody and parenting time will be difficult to change later.

Also, due to the importance of this custody decision, it’s a matter in which you must have a professional, knowledgeable, and aggressive Southfield divorce lawyer on your side to protect your rights as your child’s father.

Consult with your divorce and custody attorney as soon as possible, and with the specifics of your situation in mind, get the guidance, options, and advice you need. It could be a life-long decision that will immensely affect you and your child’s life, so it must be the right one.