Child custody is the "term that refers to rights and responsibilities for each parent and child." It is a term used to determine the amount of "time a child is going to be with each parent and each parent's responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the child."
Although it is easy to look up the definitions of legal terms, the reality of living through a child custody arrangement is not nearly as easy. It can be an emotional rollercoaster, with the highs of starting life fresh on your own and the lows of trying to figure out what is best for your children.
Those who find themselves in this situation likely have a number of questions. Three of the more common are answered below.
How is custody determined? Courts use the best interest of the child when making a custody determination. The factors used to determine these interests are found within the Michigan Child Custody Act and can include:
- Existing relationship. The court will review the "love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child." The involvement of each parent with the child or children will likely be reviewed.
- Environment each parent can offer. The court will also look at the "capacity and disposition of the parties" to provide affection, guidance and education as well as the essentials like food, clothing and medical care.
- Child's preference. In some cases, the court will take the child's wishes into account when making its decision. If this factor is considered, the judge will take the child's age and whether or not the child has been consistent in his or her preferences into account.
These are just a few of the factors that will be reviewed. Additional examples include any history of domestic violence and the mental and physical health of all involved.
Can I modify a child custody agreement? In some cases, these agreements can be changed.
It is important to note that the modification process is not easy. It requires additional legal work. As such, it is wise to make every effort to put together a successful agreement the first time around.
What if I need to relocate? Things change. Some may complete their divorce and find themselves wanting to move closer to family, others may want a fresh start and others may have a job opportunity. Whatever the reason, parents are generally allowed to relocate, but certain protocol may apply.
Court approval is likely required if a parent wishes to move over 100 miles or out of state. In these cases, the parent making the request either needs to provide the court with evidence that the non-moving parent approves of the move or must receive approval from the court.
If the parents are in agreement, a court order must be filed that includes the new address and any changes that will be made to the parenting time agreement. If the parents do not agree, a formal request, or motion, must be filed with the court explaining the reasoning behind the move.
Do I need a lawyer? This fourth, bonus question is something anyone considering divorce wonders. Divorce is a complex legal process, as touched on by these three questions. The answers provided here are fairly basic, and various circumstances can complicate the answer.
You are more likely to find the right answer for your situation by seeking the counsel of an experienced attorney. Your lawyer will ride this roller coaster with you, guiding you through the highs and lows and better ensuring your interests are protected.