How do sole and joint custody arrangements in Michigan differ?

When couples decide to end their marriage, their parenting time is often divided and how much time they have to spend with their children is outlined in a child custody agreement. In Michigan, according to the Michigan Supreme Court, there are two types of child custody that may be awarded in a divorce case. These include sole custody and joint custody.

Sole custody

The American Bar Association states that in sole custody arrangements, one parent is responsible for taking care of his or her children the majority time and is also given the power to make major decisions about his or her children. In these situations, the noncustodial parent, or the parent who was not awarded sole custody, is still able to spend parenting time with his or her children. For example, the noncustodial parent may be able to take his or her children during vacation periods or for visits overnight.

Joint custody

According to the Michigan Supreme Court, there are two types of joint custody, which include joint physical custody and joint legal custody. When joint legal custody is awarded, both parents have the authority to make decisions that affect the welfare of their children. In comparison, when joint physical custody is awarded, parents are given specific times to spend with their children. However, this does not necessarily mean that this time will be split evenly. For example, one parent may take care of his or her children during the school week and the other parent may spend the weekends with his or her children.

Factors that impact custody arrangements

During the divorce process, the Michigan Supreme Court states that the court must consider ordering joint custody if one of the parents requests it. Additionally, if both of the parents determine that they will share custody of their children, joint custody must be awarded unless the court decides that this arrangement is not what is best for the children. When determining the best interests of the children, the court considers a variety of factors. These include some of the following:

  • The ability of each parent to provide his or her children with guidance, affection and love
  • The mental and physical health of each parent
  • The capacity each parent has to provide his or her children with medical care, food and clothing as well as each parent's ability to meet his or her children's material needs

During the divorce process, parents in Michigan may be extremely concerned about how these factors will impact the time they have to spend with their children. If you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage, speak with an attorney to receive legal guidance during this difficult time.