What Does ‘Sole Custody’ Really Mean For a Michigan Parent?

Because people tend to get so many of their ideas about the legal world from movies and TV shows, they often have ideas about what a certain term means. The trouble with that is that definitions and law vary from state to state. In the same way that the term ‘date rape’ isn’t used in Michigan and doesn’t have a legal definition (although people think it does because they hear it used in movies), the term ‘sole custody‘ can have various interpretations in different states that differ from the one used here in Michigan. So let’s talk about what sole custody really means for a parent in Lansing, Clinton County, or Eaton County.

There’s a difference between physical and legal custody

As most people understand it, ‘sole custody’ refers to a single parent having custody of their child. However, in Michigan, sole custody can refer to sole legal custody, or sole physical custody, and it’s important to remember that they’re not the same thing. Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make important major decisions about raising their child. This would include things like the child’s elective dental and medical care, schooling, driver’s license and religious instruction. Physical custody, on the other hand, refers to where a child primarily lives. 

Where a child lives is only part of raising them in here mid-Michigan

Here in Michigan, one parent can have sole physical custody, which means the child lives mostly  with them, while legal custody is shared between both parents. So it’s entirely possible for a child to live most of the time with one parent, but both parents have equal say about how that child will be raised. In that case, one parent would have sole physical custody, but not sole legal custody. So for example, a mom in East Lansing, Eaton Rapids or Dewitt may have her child live mostly with her, but she doesn’t have the authority to make the major decisions about a child without the father’s input. 

You need both to have true ‘sole custody’ of a child in Michigan

If you wanted to be the only parent making choices about how your child is raised, and the only parent involved in the day-to-day major decisions for your child, you would need to have both sole physical and sole legal custody of your child. It’s important to remember, however, that having sole physical and legal custody of your child, doesn’t mean the other parent has no input. In most cases, when either parent is with the child, that parent gets to make the day-to-day decisions about routine things (but not major decisions). And whether or not a parent has sole physical custody, it’s very probable that the other parent will have parenting time / visitation with the child unless the court decides it’s unsafe for your child to see their other parent (which is pretty rare). So a parent from Grand Ledge, St. Johns or Haslett should still be allowed to have parenting time, even if they don’t have physical or legal custody of their child.

Figuring out custody and visitation can be tricky for Michigan parents

Whether you live in Lansing , Dimondale or Charlotte, figuring out the right parenting time schedule or custody agreement when you get divorced can be an endeavor. It’s one of the many reasons the skilled and trusted family law attorneys at The Kronzek Firm have developed such a great reputation over the decades. We know how tough it can be, and over the years we’ve helped hundreds of parents from the mid-Michigan area figure out parenting schedules that work for their family’s unique needs. If you’re getting divorced or you want to change parenting time or custody call 517 866 1000 today to schedule your free Zoom or phone consultation. We’re here to help even for emergencies or crisis intervention.