52nd Judicial Circuit Court-Family Division
Office of the Friend of the Court
Michigan law establishes that minor children have a right to a relationship with both parents. It is the philosophy of the 52nd Circuit Court and the Huron County Friend of the Court that it is in a child’s best interests for both parents to be involved in a child’s life. Exceptions may be made if a judge finds there is a risk of harm to a child’s physical, mental, or emotional health.
Parents should facilitate and encourage the relationship that the child has with the other parent. Parties must conduct themselves at all times with the best interest of the child foremost in their consideration and communicate with one another on a regular basis to enhance and foster the child’s best interest.
Child custody is a term that refers to rights and responsibilities for each parent and child. Custody is not a term used to indicate ownership, but rather a determination of the time a child is going to be with each parent and each parent’s responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the child.
“Legal custody” is the decision-making authority as to the important decisions affecting the health, education, religious training, and general welfare of the child.
“Physical custody” is the decision-making authority with regard to the day-to-day care of a child.
“Sole custody” does not have a legal definition. Sole custody occurs when primary physical custody and legal custody are given to one parent. If the judge believes the parents cannot work together for the benefit of their child, sole custody may be awarded to one parent. The other parent may be given parenting time by the Court. If parenting time is ordered, the non-custodial parent is responsible for making routine and emergency decisions for the child during parenting time.
“Joint custody” means that parents share in the decision-making authority as to the important decisions affecting the welfare of the child. Joint custody does not depend on the amount of time the child is with each parent. In addition to the normal factors considered when deciding custody, the Court must also consider whether the parents will be able to cooperate and generally agree concerning important decisions affecting the welfare of the child
In custody matters judges are asked to decide who will make decisions for a child and when a child is going to be with each parent. If parents in custody cases have not reached an agreement, the judge is asked to determine when a child is going to be with each parent. This decision is based upon the Michigan Child Custody Act “Best Interest Factors”.
When a request is made to modify an existing custody order, judges must also determine if there is proper cause or a change in circumstances. Michigan case law determines what qualifies as proper cause or a change in circumstances.
Vodvarka v. Grasmeyer, 259 Mich. App. 499, 675 N.W.2d 847 (2003)
Gerstenschlager v. Gerstenschlager, 292 Mich. App. 654, 808 N.W.2d 811 (2011)
However, parents in custody cases who decide to work together can decide the custody agreement with the help of their attorneys, the help of the Friend of the Court office, and/or the process of mediation. Parents can, on their own, also work through the court system to obtain or modify custody by filing the proper paperwork.
DOMICILE / LEGAL RESIDENCE
“Domicile” refers to the legal residence of a child. The Michigan Child Custody Act provides that when custody of a child is determined by a court order that a minor child has a legal residence with both parents. The legal residence of a child cannot be changed from the State of Michigan or to a location that is more than 100 miles from the address at the original time of filing a domestic relations case without the written permission of the Court.