For children, divorce can be stressful, sad, and confusing. At any age, kids may feel uncertain or angry at the prospect of mom and dad splitting up. As a parent, you can make the process and its effects less painful for your children. Helping your kids cope with divorce means providing stability in your home and attending to your children's needs with a reassuring, positive attitude. Unfortunately, parents fight about custody and child support and argue about when they will each have parenting time with the children. We help parents understand that child custody, parenting time and support are not only about them, but also about their children. We educate clients about the standards the court uses to determine custody, parenting time and support and the best interests of the child.
Your Child's Best Interests
Child custody involves determining where the child will live, who will make major decisions about the child's upbringing and how frequently he or she will have contact with the other parent. Options depend on the circumstances of the parents. Because every set of circumstances is unique, we make sure that parents understand their options. We help them work for the option that is best for them and for their children. We work and encouraged the parents to reach their own agreements regarding custody arrangements. However, when parents cannot agree, the court must decide custody by considering all of the following best interests factors of the Michigan Child Custody Act (MCL 722.23). These factors are usually addressed during custody evaluations by the friend of the court. The following are the factors of the Child Custody Act:
- The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
- The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and the continuation of the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.
- 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.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
- The moral fitness of the parties involved.
- The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
- The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.
- Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed at or witnessed by the child.
- Any other factor considered by the court to be of relevance to a particular child custody dispute.
Common Types of Custody
There are two types of joint custody in Michigan. The first is "joint legal custody." Under this arrangement parents share decision-making responsibility in making important life decisions affecting the child. The second is "joint physical custody." Under this arrangement there is usually equal parenting time and shared responsibility for the day-to-day care of the child. A Michigan court must consider joint custody if asked to do so by either parent.
Moving After a Custody has Been Established
Custodial parents who are subject to a Michigan custody order are expected to seek permission from the trial court before relocating the children to another state. Where the parents with either joint physical or joint legal custody live within 100 miles of each other at the time of the initial custody order, either parent must petition the court before they move beyond that 100 mile limit.
Modification of Custody
Once the court has entered a custody order, the court should not revisit the custody decision unless the party requesting modification can establish a "change of circumstances" sufficient to reopen the prior custody decision. It is important that minor children have stability in their lives, and thus modification of custody is not appropriate if there has been no significant change in the custodial environment. However, if there has been a significant change in the cutodial environment. we can help you evaluate if custody can be modified.
When the Court orders child support, Michigan Court Rules require a Uniform Child Support Order. The Uniform Child Support Order governs the terms of child support for the life of the Order. Support may include payment of the expenses of medical, dental, and other health care, child care expenses, and educational expenses.
Michigan child support awards are based on state guidelines that consider:
- Mother's net income
- Father's net income
- Number of children of the parties
- Overnight parenting time of each parent
- Other support obligations
- Custody of other children
- Health care costs
- Child care costs for the minor children in the case
All income must be accounted for and the Friend of the Court may conduct a financial investigation and make a written report and recommendation regarding child support. Courts may also consider one's unexercised ability to earn income. So, it is important to scrutinize the numbers that are used to calculate child support so that the final award is fair to both the child and the parents.
We take time to answer your questions, explain Michigan child support guidelines and ensure the numbers used in the formula are correct. We are also experienced handling the unique child support issues raised when one or both parents have a high income.
Calculation of Child Support
Child support is ordinarily calculated in accord with the Michigan Child Support Formula. This calculation is formulaic, and except in high income cases does not leave much room for negotiation. Child support is payable until a child reaches the age of eighteen, or until the age of 19-1/2 if the child is a full-time high school student.
If you are paying or receiving child support, and your financial circumstances change, you may ask the court to modify the amount of child support. If either parent receives public assistance, the Friend of the Court automatically reviews the child support order amount every 36 months. However, if you are not receiving public assistance, you may still request a child support order review every 36 months. Under normal circumstances a court will be unable to modify support "retroactively" - that is, any change will ordinarily take effect as of the date of your petition for a modification.