Joint Custody – What Happens When You Don’t Agree?

What do you do when you and your ex can’t agree on how to raise your child?


In the majority of standard divorce cases in Michigan, the outcome of the custody arrangement is Joint Legal Custody, which means that regardless of how the physical custody is divided, both parents have equal say in how the child should be raised.


While physical custody means the actual location of the child as a person, joint legal custody refers to the major decisions made about the child’s upbringing. Issues like religious studies, medical care, educational choices, and even sometimes discipline methods have to be agreed on by both of the parents.


Divorced parents who have joint legal custody are entitled, by law, to both get copies of their child’s medical records, school report cards and current photographs. They are both allowed to attend parent/teacher conferences, sports games and any school programs in which parents are invited to participate or attend.


But what happens when a divorced couple can’t agree on joint custody terms for their child? What do they do when one feels that their child should be on a certain medication and the other disagrees? Or when one wants to raise the child in a Judaic home, while the other is in favor of a Catholic upbringing?


The court holds a special hearing to decide on the contested issue.


According to Michigan’s custody laws, when two divorced parents who share legal custody of a child or children cannot agree on an issue, it falls to the court to decide what the outcome of that issue will be. A Lombardo Hearing is held, during which time the parents present their cases to a judge for resolution.


However, unlike a custody hearing where the court must consider the overall best interests of the child, a Lombardo hearing is different. This is where parents address a specific joint legal custody dispute, and the court is required to focus exclusively on the factors that are specific to that issue, and how it affects the child.


In most Lombardo hearings, one parent is attempting to change the status quo while the other is hoping to keep it the same. In these situations, the judge will look at who has primary physical custody of a child and whether or not there is an Established Custodial Environment, which simply means: a place or environment in which the child has been steadily for several months.


If neither of these factors are affected by the proposed change, then the parent who is proposing the change is required to prove that the change is in the best interests of the child. A judge will almost always make a decision based upon they believe to be in the best interests of the child.
Situations like these require careful consideration from a skilled family law attorney. If you or a loved one are struggling with custody issues in Michigan, and need help from a family lawyer with decades of experience, call The Kronzek Firm at 517 886 1000. We are here to help you.