When two people fall in love, exchange wedding vows and start a family, the world they build together blends all aspects of their financial and emotional lives. But it is a legal contract that holds a marriage together in the eyes of the law. When the couple decides to split, the financial details of the divorce affect not only decisions about what happens to the family home, alimony and child support, but can also influence custody arrangements.
For Michigan parents, the pain of divorce is real, but the practical necessities of moving forward offer a perspective that can keep them grounded. For the children, though, divorce isn’t about finances. It’s emotional, often gut-wrenchingly so. This is why there is so much emphasis during divorce proceedings on what is in the best interest of the child.
What factors does the court consider?
The best interest of the child standard involves a number of factors that the court considers when making decisions about child custody. All states have adopted variations of this standard, but in Michigan they include:
- Emotional ties of the child to each parent
- Each parent’s capacity to provide love and affection to the child, to adequately house them and provide for the basic needs of food, clothing and medical care
- Each parent’s mental, moral and physical fitness
- Each parent’s willingness to encourage bonding of the child with the other parent
- The child’s preference, if of the age to decide
- Either parent’s history of substance abuse, violence or neglect
Physical custody refers to the responsibilities of a parent for the living arrangements and basic care of the child, while legal custody grants the parent the right to make important medical, educational and religious decisions on behalf of the child.
Custody can be joint or sole, depending in part on the factors listed above. Joint custody is shared custody between the parents, while sole custody makes one the custodial parent, while the other may have visitation rights. The court can also decide on joint or sole legal or physical custody.
Providing for the child
Some important considerations that go into decisions about parenting time, who has visitation rights, how long they will be and if they will be supervised, involve what is best for the child and if these arrangements meet the child’s needs. Mitigating factors include a history of abuse or neglect including abuse during visitation, if the parent uses parenting time wisely and if the distance between the homes make it difficult to share custody.