Child Custody in Michigan


Area of Law: 

When a couple divorces and there is a minor child involved, the divorce decree will specify who has physical custody as well as legal custody of the child. Physical custody determines where and with whom the child will live. Legal custody specifies who has the legal right to make important decisions about the child related to issues such as education, religion, medical issues, and discipline. Spouses often reach an agreement regarding child custody on their own, but if they do not, Michigan courts will intervene and establish custody arrangements based on the best interests of the child. For a summary of divorce and child custody laws in the state of Michigan, go to


There are typically several different custody arrangements that may be made for children of divorced parents. In most cases, courts will award physical custody to one parent with whom the child will live most of the time. The parent with physical custody, or the custodial parent, often shares legal custody, or the right to make decisions regarding the child, with the non-custodial parent. Many child custody arrangements involve joint custody in which the child spends a relatively equal amount of time with each parent.


In Michigan, the law encourages joint custody, which can give both parents the right to make decisions concerning their child's upbringing. The court may award physical custody, which determines where the child lives, to one or both parents. The non-custodial parent is typically granted visitation, which is called parenting time in Michigan.


According to, when Michigan courts decide how much time each parent should spend with their child, the following factors are usually considered:


  • The love, affection, and other emotional ties between the parents and the child
  • The capacity and disposition of the parents to give the child love, affection, and guidance to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any
  • The capacity and disposition of the parents to provide the child with material needs such as food, clothing, medical care, or other remedial care in the place of medical care permitted by state law
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity
  • The permanence of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes
  • The moral fitness of the parents
  • The home, school, and community record of the child
  • The reasonable preference of the child
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and other parent
  • Domestic violence, whether or not it was directed against or witnessed by the child


When Michigan courts decide whether to award joint custody, they consider whether or not the parents agree to joint custody and whether they will be able to cooperate and be in general agreement about important decisions that affect their child's welfare. To review the full text of divorce and custody laws in Michigan, go to