The definition of what constitutes a Michigan unmarried couple has changed as society has changed. A couple no longer consists solely of a man and a woman. Nowadays a same-sex pairing is considered a couple. So when speaking of child custody and child visitation with respect to unmarried couples, both traditional and same-sex couples are part of the discussion. However, because the laws dealing with same-sex relationships is still so undefined in a number of areas, answering questions of child custody, visitation and support, as a result of that type of relationship, can be difficult and complex.
A same-sex Michigan couple that was married in 2007 in Canada and parted ways in 2009 had a battle over child custody. When the ex-couple could not work out a custody and visitation schedule, the biological mother decided that she wanted full custody of the child, so the other mother pursued the case in court. Since the state of Michigan does not observe same-sex marriage as a legal union, the biological mother won the child custody decision. The reasoning behind the court's decision was that the non-biological mother had no parental claim to the child, even though she held herself out as the child's mother.
The non-biological parent in same-sex unmarried couples has an uphill battle compared to their heterosexual counterparts. The courts always look at the rights of the parents in child custody and child visitation cases. Rarely will the court deny the biological parent access to their child. In same-sex unions, one parent is not the biological parent. Hence, their rights are limited in the eyes of the court. Specifically in states where same-sex marriage is not recognized, like Michigan.
Unmarried couples have to deal with the same issues that divorce couples have to deal with when children are concerned. The process is made even more difficult when the child is part of a same-sex union because the court mainly looks to biology to make such determinations.
Source: The Mining Journal, "Gay partner child custody denied," Oct. 25, 2013