Child Custody Lawyers -- St. Joseph, MI.

Serving Benton Harbor, Bridgman, Berrien Springs & The Greater Southwest Michigan Area

Who gets custody of the kids? That’s one of the biggest questions on parents’ minds when they consider ending a relationship with a spouse or co-parent. But child custody does not need to be a battle. Many parents can reach reasonable and workable agreements together, with professional guidance and assistance from an experienced child custody lawyer.

Physical custody refers to the amount of time the child spends with each parent. The parent with whom the child is living on a given day generally makes the day-to-day decisions for the child. Some courts will skip identifying the primary physical custodian and describe the parenting time (schedule) the child will have with each parent.  The court awards legal custody based on what the judge decides to be in the child’s best interests.

Child Custody in Michigan

If you are married and filing for divorce, child custody is something you must resolve within that divorce. Custody is also very important for non-married parents in Michigan and can be established by filing an action for custody.

Once custody has been established by an order of judgment, post-judgment child custody can be very difficult to change. At The Law Offices of Mais & Sible, Attorneys at Law, we help you understand and navigate issues of legal and physical custody while also keeping the child’s best interests at heart.

Legal Custody Attorneys

Most parents typically have joint legal custody. Legal custody is a parent’s right to make decisions about how the child is raised and key aspects of the child’s welfare, such as education, medical care, and religion. With joint legal custody, both parents must remain in Michigan and cannot move more than 100 miles away from the courthouse where their case was finalized. Additionally, with joint legal custody, both parents need to agree on things like:

  • Where the child will attend school (what school district, private v. public school)
  • How to address special needs
  • Religious instruction
  • Medical decisions, including prescription medications, medical procedures & surgery

Joint legal custody works best when both parents are in alignment on what is best for their child, and when both parents can communicate and make decisions together. Sometimes a parent may be awarded sole legal custody to make all the decisions without input from the other parent. When parents fight about everything and agree on nothing, the court may make one parent the responsible party. This is also true in circumstances of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or if one parent is in prison.

Child Custody Evaluation – 12 Factors

If parents cannot reach an agreement on custody, the Court will decide the issue of custody by looking at what is in the “best interests of the child.” This involves an evaluation of the following 12 factors:

  • 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 parties 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.

At The Law Offices of Mais & Sible, Attorneys at Law, we realize that negotiated parenting arrangements are often preferable to a court-issued order. When both parents are involved in the creation of an agreement, the arrangement can be customized to meet their unique circumstances. Studies also suggest that parents are more inclined to comply with an arrangement that they had a role in developing. With that in mind, we work closely with parents in negotiating custody terms that protect their rights while promoting their child's best interests.

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