Child Custody in a Michigan Divorce: What Are The Deciding Factors? (Part 1)

How the Michigan Family Court determines which parent gets custody of the kids.


When a divorcing couple’s interactions have become so fraught with anger and resentment, or their opinions are irreconcilably different and they just cannot reach an agreement regarding custody of their children, the court will make those decisions for them.


The Michigan family courts will always consider the ‘best interests of the child’ when making custody decisions. When determining physical custody, the judge will take into consideration 12 factors that aid in making the final determination. However, these factors are only a guideline. As family law attorney Brandy Thompson explains,”While the court is required to look at every factor it’s very important to note that not all factors are applicable in every case and the factors don’t necessarily have equal weight. What may be an extremely important factor for one family may not be applicable for another family.”


For those of you who may not be familiar with the 12 most common factors used by Judges in determining custody, they are as follows:



  • The love, affection and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.


Here the judge looks at who the child has a stronger emotional bond with, considering things like who spends more time with the child, preparing their meals and putting them to bed at night. Familial bonds are very important, and a family court Judge will be reluctant to tear a child away from the parent with whom they have the strongest bond. Parents who have invested the most time and energy into developing and sustaining relationships with their children are more likely to be considered for custody by the court.



  • 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.


In part, this ties in to the previous factor, as it pertains to which parent is best able to provide the child with day-to-day love and affection. However, the primary purpose of this particular factor is to determine which parent is best able to teach values and morals to a child, and provide them with an upbringing that honors the religion or beliefs that they have been raised with thus far.



  • 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.


For this question, the judge considers which parent provides health insurance, arranges child care and schedules doctor’s appointments. In addition, the issue of financial stability plays a role. Some people believe that the Judge compares parent’s income and the parent with the higher income is more likely to gain custody. This is not true. According to attorney Brandy Thompson, the Judge considers finances in order to make sure that a parent can provide for the bare necessities, for example, if one parent can afford a lobster dinner, while the other parent can afford a sandwich, they are both considered able to provide food.

Join us next time, when we will be looking at the next items on this list, and discussing what each determining factor means for divorcing parents. Until then, if you or a loved one have questions or concerns regarding the custody or your children, or the outcome of a pending custody dispute, don’t hesitate to contact us at 517-886-1000. Our skilled family law attorneys are knowledgeable and experienced in handling a wide variety of custody matters.