Child Custody in a Michigan Divorce: What Are The Deciding Factors? (Part 2)

How does the Michigan court determine child custody?


Thank you for joining us for the continuation of this discussion about child custody in Michigan, and what deciding factors the court uses to determine custody. As we mentioned in the previous article, there are 12 factors that the court looks at when attempting to decide what custody arrangement would best benefit the child. However, 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.


So far, we’ve looked at the first three factors, and talked about what each one means for a divorcing couple in Michigan. Moving on, we are going to break down the next five items and discuss what each one means:



  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity


When a custody dispute occurs as part of a divorce case, where the child was living with both parents simultaneously, neither parent would really have much of an advantage. It is sometimes believed that if the parents were separated for a period of time before the divorce proceedings started, the parent who had been granted temporary custody until the actual custody trial might have an advantage. This, however, isn’t the case in Michigan, as orders of temporary custody generally cannot be used as a basis for an Established Custodial Environment.



  • The permanence of the family unit of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.


This factor is determined based on who is in each parent’s family unit. Will the child live with siblings? Will the same family members be constant in the child’s life as opposed to a constantly changing group of people? A parent who can provide a child with a stable home and a daily routine that provides security and stability is likely to have an advantage over a parent whose life appears unstable, and whose living situation is in flux.



  • The moral fitness of the parties involved.


In this instance, the judge could look at whether or not either parent had an affair that the child was aware of. Also considered are issues like drug use, alcoholism, a history of physical or verbal abuse, criminal records, and behaviors that could have a negative impact on the child’s life. Parents who have struggled with drug abuse, alcohol abuse or any activity that could be viewed as “immoral” may have a harder fight if the other parent has a “clean slate” in the eyes of the court.



  • The mental and physical health of the parties involved.


Does either party have a physical or mental health problem that would significantly interfere with their ability to care for the child? Parents who have battled with personality disorders, mental illnesses (even if they are receiving care for that illness) or emotional or mental disorders are more likely to have to fight for custody rights. Being considered a ‘fit’ parent has a lot to do with one’s mental and emotional health. A parent’s age may also play a role in this choice, as a much older or much younger parent may not be viewed as able to provide the necessary care for a child.



  • The home, school and community record of the child.


Here the court considers which parent would be more likely to encourage and insure a child’s attendance in school, go to parent teacher meetings, and make sure that the child has opportunities for relationships with their peers. An involved parent is far more likely to be favorably viewed by the court than an uninvolved parent.


Join us next time, when we will continue with our breakdown of the 12 deciding factors for custody in Michigan, and 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.