Forward Thinking Family Law Since 1994

Michigan Child Custody Act

Who your children will live with, and who will make decisions about their care—are the most emotional and traumatic part of most divorce cases. The Court considers two forms of custody: legal and physical. Who your children will live with, and who will make decisions about their care—are the most emotional and traumatic part of most divorce cases. The Court considers two forms of custody: legal and physical. 

If the parties agree upon the issues of legal and physical custody, the Court generally adopts that agreement in the form of a stipulation (agreement of the parties) and order (official adoption by the Court of the agreement). If the parties can’t reach an agreement, Michigan law requires the judge to decide what is in the best interest of the child. After taking testimony and receiving evidence, the judge must make findings of fact on the record as to each of the 12 factors listed in the Child Custody Act.

12 factors the judge considers

  1. Love, affection and other emotional ties between the parties and the child.
  2. Capacity and disposition of the parties to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and upbringing of the child in their religion or creed, if any.
  3. Ability and willingness to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under Michigan law in place of medical care, and other material needs.
  4. Length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
  5. Permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
  6. Moral fitness of the parties.
  7. Mental and physical health of the parties.
  8. Home, school and community record of the children.
  9. Reasonable preference of the child, if the Court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express a preference.
  10. Willingness and ability of each of the parents to encourage a close, continuing parent child relationship between the child and the other parent.
  11. Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
  12. Any other factor the Court feels relevant to this child custody dispute.

Custody dispute process

The process begins with conciliation at the Friend of the Court. This meeting takes place within 3–8 weeks of the filing of the complaint for divorce. The objective of conciliation is to have the parties reach a temporary agreement about custody, parenting time and child support. If the parties can’t reach an agreement, the conciliator makes a recommendation to the judge, which the Judge will adopt as an interim order. 

The Court considers the testimony and evidence presented to reach a conclusion about whether each factor favors the mother, the father, or neither parent. For this reason, it’s important that you evaluate yourself and your spouse as impartially as possible to prepare yourself for the process that lies ahead. The worksheet below helps you do that. 

MICHIGAN CHILD CUSTODY ACT

These are some of the factors the Court may use to determine who would prevail with custody of the minor child. For each question, write “father”, “mother” or “equal.” For each statement, write a short explanation, including examples, witnesses or other tangible evidence and documents.

1. Love, affection and other emotional ties between the parties and the child. 

_________ Who gets the child's breakfast/lunch/dinner?

_________ Who is the child most bonded to?

_________ Who does the child tell about their accomplishments?

_________ Who does the child turn to with a problem?

_________ Who can separate the children's needs from their own?

How would you describe your relationship with your children?

 

How would you describe your spouses' relationship with your children?

 

What is the average number of hours each of you speaks with the children?

 

What are the child’s favorite foods, TV programs, stories, friends, etc.?

 

How has the child been affected by separation, and what do you do to try to fix the problem?

WHICH PARTY DO YOU THINK THIS FACTOR FAVORS? ___________

2. Capacity and disposition of the parties to give the children love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and upbringing of the children in their religion or creed, if any.

_________ Who feeds the child?

_________ Who bathes and dresses the children, puts them to bed, etc.?

_________ Who stays home from work when the children are sick?

_________ Who takes responsibility for involvement in academic affairs, enrollment in programs, homework, conferences?

_________ Who arranges for nursery school enrollment/religious education?

_________How do you discipline the children?

_________ How does the other parent discipline the children?

_________ Does either parent have problems with verbal or physical abuse, substance abuse, or an arrest record?

_________ Who can provide the children with access to extended family?

What activities do you do with the children, and how many times a week or hours? Describe a typical day.

 

How do you show your children love and affection?

 

How would you describe yourself and your spouse as a parent?

 

Do you know the names of children or friends your children plays with now and in the past year?

WHICH PARTY DO YOU THINK THIS FACTOR FAVORS? ___________

3. Capacity and disposition of the parties to provide the children with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care permitted under Michigan law in place of medical care, and other material needs.

_________ Who buys the children’s clothes, toys, equipment?

_________ Who takes the children to the doctor/dentist?

_________ Who arranges for daycare or babysitters?

_________ Does the child have any special physical or emotional special needs, and if so, who takes care of them?

_________ Who has more certainty of future earnings?

_________ Who has health insurance?

_________ Who attends classes for professional improvement?

WHICH PARTY DO YOU THINK THIS FACTOR FAVORS? ___________


4. Length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.

Describe the child’s current home situation, including how many rooms, how many people, how long has the child has lived there. Is the home clean and safe?

 

Describe the proposed home. Is it in the same geographical location? How will the move affect the children? Is it safe?

 

Which home will provide the children with the most love, affection, guidance, moral and spiritual training, and educational opportunities?

 

Do the children have friends and relatives who live nearby in either proposed location?

 

WHICH PARTY DO YOU THINK THIS FACTOR FAVORS? ________

 

5. Permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.

_________ In whose custody will the family unit not be split?

_________ What is the child’s relationship to other siblings?

_________ What is the child’s relationship with the parents?

_________ How do you think the child perceives the family unit?

_________ Which home is likely to be more permanent?

_________ Has either spouse expressed the intention of moving from the area or the state?

Do you have immediate prospects of remarriage or a continuing relationship with a person who will be significant in the life of the children? If so, describe that person’s relationship with the children and how it might affect the custody decision. 

 

WHICH PARTY DO YOU THINK THIS FACTOR FAVORS? ___________

 

6. Moral fitness of the parties (this also applies to stepparents and significant others).

_________ Extramarital affair(s) the children know about

_________ Physical or sexual abuse of the children

_________ Illegal or offensive behaviors

_________ Poor driving record (excessive violations, DUIs, or reckless driving convictions)

_________ Alcohol or drug problems—how severe? Has treatment been sought?  Is there is a police record? 

Does anyone verbally abuse, ridicule or demean the children?

 

Have the children been exposed to moral issues, and what is their response?

 

What are each party’s strengths and weaknesses in discussing moral beliefs?

 

WHICH PARTY DO YOU THINK THIS FACTOR FAVORS? ___________

7. Mental and physical health of the parties.

_________ Physical or mental health that significantly interferes with the ability to safeguard the children's health and well-being

_________ Age of parents compared to the age of the children— would the energies of the children overwhelm the parent?
 

What is the mental health history, marriage counseling, or hospitalizations of all parties?

 

WHICH PARTY DO YOU THINK THIS FACTOR FAVORS? ___________


8. Home, school and community record of the children.

_________ Who can more adequately plan and supervise the child’s home responsibilities appropriate to their age and circumstance?

_________ Are juvenile or other agencies involved, and who can more adequately deal with them?

Where do the children attend school and what is its reputation?

 

 

How are the children doing academically and socially? What is their attitude toward school?

 

Has any of the above information changed since the divorce or separation became known to the children?

 

How do the parents participate in school and extracurricular activities, and with the child’s friends?

 

How is the daily routine organized at home: do the children have chores or responsibilities?

 

WHICH PARTY DO YOU THINK THIS FACTOR FAVORS? ___________


9. Reasonable preference of the child, if the Court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express a preference.

Do you feel the children have a preference for one parent over another?

 

How do you feel the children will react if a change of custody is granted?

 

Why does the other party want this change of custody?

 

Why do you oppose this change of custody?

 

WHICH PARTY DO YOU THINK THIS FACTOR FAVORS? ___________


10. Willingness and ability of each of the parents to encourage a close, continuing parent child relationship between the children and the other parent.

_________ Who can best cooperate with an appropriate visitation schedule with the other party?

_________ Who is least likely to disparage the other parent in the presence of the children?

What is your proposed visitation schedule?

 

When and how do you talk about the other parent with your children and what do you say?

 

List the five best things about your spouse’s parenting abilities and his/her relationship with the children.

 

List the five worst things about your spouse’s parenting abilities and his/her relationship with the children.

 

List five things about your spouse that you admire as a person.

 

List your and your spouse’s strengths and weaknesses.

 

WHICH PARTY DO YOU THINK THIS FACTOR FAVORS? ___________

11. Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against the children or witnessed by the children.

_________ Has Child Protective Services ever been involved?

_________ Have there been any incidents of violence in the home by any party against any party? Has there been a pattern of violence, whether reported or not?  Has there been a police record?

WHICH PARTY DO YOU THINK THIS FACTOR FAVORS? ___________


12. Any other factor the Court considers relevant to this child custody dispute.
_________ Threats of kidnapping

_________ Failure to exercise visitation, failure to notify of changes, or failure to return the children

_________ Excessive traveling

_________ Failure to complete court reports

_________ Occasional acts of adultery committed prior to separation

_________ Occasional acts of adultery committed after separation

_________ Ongoing affair that continues 

_________ Living with a member of the opposite sex without getting married

_________ Occasional acts of homosexuality

_________ Practicing homosexual or bisexual

_________ Sexual promiscuity

_________ Engages in "kinky" sex

_________ Conviction of a serious crime

_________ Gambling—occasional, moderate stakes or frequent, high stakes

_________ Regular church attendance

_________ Spouse's moral values

_________ Objectionable business practices

_________ Objectionable social practices

_________ Marital misbehavior such as verbal abuse, belittling spouse in public

_________ Personality traits (volatile, stable, etc.)

_________ Mental disease such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia not controlled by medication/ counseling

_________ Spouse is neurotic

_________ Serious physical disease (heart condition, cancer, etc.)

_________ Physical disability (blind, crippled, etc.)

_________ Alcohol abuse

_________ Drug abuse (prescription drugs)

_________ Drug abuse (illegal drugs)

_________ Intelligence

_________ Educational attainment

_________ Status in community

Are any other children (whether a part of this litigation or not) whose custody is relevant to the children's best interest? (Half brother or sister, stepbrother or sister)

WHICH PARTY DO YOU THINK THIS FACTOR FAVORS? ___________