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Divorce and Family Law

Understanding Michigan Custody And Parenting Time Laws

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Custody and parenting time are determined during a divorce and can be difficult to change after the divorce is over even if many years have passed. The right to change an existing custody or parenting time order is always available, but the law is very specific regarding what a party needs to prove and to what degree before ordering a change. Read more about custody modifications.


When working toward custody agreements with your spouse, there are actually two separate issues to consider. The first is legal custody — that is the right to have input into major decisions affecting a child’s life such as decisions about education, medical treatment or religion. The second is physical custody — the responsibility for day-to-day care of a child.

Joint custody of both types is very common, though joint physical custody may not always be practical. In some cases, it may be in the best interests of your child to live primarily with one parent (giving him/her physical custody) and to spend ample time with the other parent.

Parenting Time

Parenting time is exactly what it sounds like: A schedule of time a child will spend with each parent. It was formerly called visitation, and it is closely related to the issue of custody. Relatively equal division of parenting time may be in the best interest of your children, so they can continue to benefit from the presence of both of their parents.

What Does Michigan Law Say About Child Custody?

Very few divorces end in court — most are resolved amicably, or using some type of alternative dispute resolution. When custody arrangements are determined by court order, the best interests of the child are the primary consideration.

The Child Custody Act of Michigan lists 12 factors that judges should consider in determining what kind of custody and parenting time arrangement is in the child’s best interests. These factors including the child’s emotional bond with each parent, the ability of each parent to provide for his or her child and — if the child is old enough — the preferences expressed by the child himself or herself.