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Who Gets Child Custody In A Divorce In Michigan?

Do Courts Favor Women When It Comes To Child Custody?

At ADAM, our entire legal team is dedicated to combating gender bias in custody cases. However, it is important to keep in mind that true bias occurs only when the facts are equal and the mother wins solely because she is the mother.

If the mother has been a stay at home parent without any particular parenting deficiencies and the father spends 80 hours a week at work, the mother will have a better chance of winning primary custody under the law. This would not be due to gender bias. However, the reality is that most families today are two income households where both parents are heavily involved in care giving out of necessity.

The concept of joint physical custody, where the children spend more or less equal time with each parent, is becoming much more prevalent. Courts need to be reminded that fathers can and should play an integral part in raising children in spite of their relationship ending with the mother.

What Strategies Are Used To Specifically Support Father's Rights In Child Custody Cases?

Attorneys at ADAM focus on the things their clients do in the care of the children more so than on the deficiencies of the mother. We encourage our clients to document the things they do in everyday life with the kids. We prove to the judge that our client has been integrally involved in the child's upbringing to this point, and that it would not be in the child's best interests to deny that relationship. 

We also encourage clients to be well informed and involved in the details of the child's life, including parent-teacher conferences, obtaining report cards, attending doctor and dentist visits, and being involved in extra-curricular activities.

Of course, there are cases where the mother does have issues that the judge should be aware of, and in that situation, we stand ready to prove that placing the child with the mother would be detrimental. In these cases, it is important to refer the matter to appropriate mental health professionals for a psychological evaluation or to utilize a drug or alcohol monitoring expert to provide evidence of concerns in that regard.

What Are The Differences Between Sole Custody And Joint Custody?

In Michigan, a judgment of custody addresses both legal and physical custody. Legal custody is the ability to make decisions on major issues involving the children surrounding their education, health care and religion. Physical custody is where the children primarily reside. 

Sole legal custody would provide that parent with exclusive decision-making ability as to where a child goes to school, whether the child gets moved up or held back a grade, whether a child has elective medical procedures or immunizations, and what type of religious education a child may have. A party having sole legal custody also has the ability to change the domicile, or the state where the child is going to live, without the court having to conduct a trial.

With joint legal custody, both parties are consulted and have a say in all of these decisions. Should one party object to the other parent's decision on an issue, that parent can file a motion with the court, and the judge will determine what is best for the child. As a joint legal custodian, each parent is entitled to school and medical information necessary to participate in this decision-making.

A party that has joint legal custody cannot move more than 100 miles from where he or she lived when the custody action completed without the judge's permission except in limited circumstances. Furthermore, any request to move the child out of the state can be defended by a parent with joint legal custody and would require the court to conduct an evidentiary hearing before making that decision.

Sole physical custody means that the child primarily resides in that parent’s household. The other parent would have parenting time. While there is no great statutory definition for the term joint physical custody, in practice it usually means that the children spend enough time in both parents' homes to say that they have two physical residences.

This does not necessarily mean equal parenting time, just that the child spends a substantial amount of time with both parents. Our focus at ADAM has been on parenting time and quality time with the children more than the label of sole or joint physical custody.

How Does ADAM Strategically Help Clients Come To an Amicable Custody Arrangement?

In most cases custody is settled between the parties. While even reasonable minds can disagree on what is in the child's best interest, with a little work on behalf of the attorneys, there can be a meeting of the minds.

At ADAM, our main approach is to encourage settlement between the parties, as a protracted custody and parenting time battle can be expensive and extremely detrimental to the long-term family relationship. We remind our clients that the child's mother will always be the mother, and how the father acts during this process will have a lasting impact.

It is almost always better for the parties to reach an agreement than to have a custody and parenting time arrangement imposed upon the parents. Where parties cannot agree on an arrangement it is best to accentuate the positive as to the client's parenting rather than go on the attack and look to destroy the other parent.

Courts are much more impressed with what our client brings to the table in terms of providing a good environment for the child than they are with vicious attacks on the other side. To the extent negative facts about the mother must be presented, there is no choice but to do so. However, keeping it positive and focused on the child is always the better path whenever possible.

If you're preparing for divorce, contact the American Divorce Association for Men for a FREE initial telephone consultation at 248-356-ADAM (2326), and get the information and legal answers you're seeking.

About ADAM (American Divorce Association for Men)

The American Divorce Association for Men (ADAM) is a group of highly qualified attorneys who advocate for men’s rights in divorce, child custody and parenting time, paternity, support, property settlement, post judgment modifications, and other family law matters. Since 1988, ADAM has been aggressive, diligent, and uncompromising when representing their clients. A team of compassionate and skilled family law attorneys, ADAM is dedicated to being Michigan’s leading divorce attorneys for men.

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