This issue is the most emotional and difficult of most divorce cases. Custody may take many forms, including sole custody, joint custody, bird nest custody, etc. The basis for determining child custody is “the best interests of the child.” The following factors are to be considered in deciding what is in the child’s best interests:

  • The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
  • The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.
  • The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
  • The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
  • The moral fitness of the parties involved.
  • The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
  • The home, school, and community record of the child.
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
  • The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.
  • Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
  • Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.

MCLA 722.23, MSA 25.312(3)

If custody is disputed, the parents must be told about joint custody.

Child custody orders may be modified if there is a change in circumstances sufficient to justify a change in custody.

Parenting Time

The non-custodial parent is almost always granted parenting time. The judgment may order general parenting time, leaving it to the parents to decide the dates, or it may provide specific hours and dates. If long distances must be traveled for parenting time, arrangements can be made to share the cost.

Judgments of divorce provide that the minor child may not be permanently removed from the jurisdiction of the court without the court’s approval. To move the child from Michigan, or to move more than 100 miles from the child’s current residence, the custodial parent must petition the court for an order to change the child’s domicile.

Parenting time orders may be modified on a showing of a change in circumstances.

The law also allows parenting time that has been wrongfully denied to be made up. A custodial parent who wrongfully refuses to allow parenting time may be held in contempt of court and be fined or sentenced to jail. Failure to pay child support is not an acceptable reason to deny parenting time.

Tax Deduction

The custodial parent is entitled to claim the minor children as dependents for all tax purposes. If the parents agree that the non-custodial parent shall have this allowance, the custodial parent must furnish a signed IRS Form 8332 each year to the non-custodial parent, to be filed with his or her federal income taxes.