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Changes in Michigan family law could affect child custody

Historically, women took over the main role of parenting after divorce while fathers were relegated to a couple of weekends every month. While that might have been appropriate for past generations, Michigan family law may be evolving to keep up with modern families. Lawmakers are currently reviewing a bill that would encourage parents to treat 50/50 custody as the first option for child custody.

Joint physical custody is rapidly becoming normalized across the United States, and many states now actively consider the important role that fathers play in bringing up their children. Ongoing research into the effect child custody has on children shows that kids benefit greatly from having equal access to their fathers after divorce. Children in shared custody arrangements typically perform better in school, have higher self-esteem and seem to do better overall than their peers in sole custody agreements. These results are considerably different than the past stance that women were inherently better caregivers.

While many people seem to be in favor of the push toward shared custody, the bill is not without its opponents. Some worry that judges will no longer have the necessary discretion to deviate from the norm, while others believe that it will give control to controlling ex-spouses. It is not clear if any of these concerns have played out in states where shared parenting is the automatic assumption for custody.

Ultimately, families must focus on what is in their children's best interests. For many in Michigan this may well be shared custody that gives children equal access to both parents. However, others might benefit from a more traditional approach to custody, which gives one parent primary physical custody. When divorcing parents are unable to agree on either of these arrangements, it is sometimes necessary to go before a family law judge, who will have the final say on the matter.

Source: heraldtribune.com, "A push to consider the importance of fathers", Michael Alison Chandler, Dec. 19, 2017

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