There are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to who has the legal right to make important decisions for a child including decisions affecting the child's health, education, and welfare. Physical custody refers to who has the legal right to have the child reside with them. Parenting time refers to who has the legal right to have specific time with the child to parent the child.

Legal Custody

Legal custody can be granted to one parent (sole legal custody) or jointly to both parents (joint legal custody). If parents share joint legal custody, the parents must jointly make important decisions affecting their child's welfare. Regardless of who has legal custody, both parents may decide all routine matters concerning the child while the child is with that parent.

Physical Custody

Physical custody can be granted to one parent (sole physical custody) or jointly to both parents (joint physical custody). Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean that the parties will have equal time with the child. The parties may agree, or the Court may order whatever parenting time plan is in the child's "best interests."

In making custody determinations, the Court looks to the "best interests" of the child. In Michigan, there are 12 "best interests" factors. See MCL 722.23. No one factor indicates how custody should be awarded.

Evaluation of the 12 "best interests" factors depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. Custody is not awarded on the basis of which parent "scores" the most points. Factors need not be given equal weight. The weight to be given to any factor is ultimately left to the court's discretion.

Parties may also be required to participate in the SMILE Program - Start Making It Livable for Everyone. If you have a court order (and even if you don't and would just like to watch the video), please watch this video. You may be required to show proof of viewing.

Prior to filing any motions regarding custody or parenting time, the parties must attend mediation. If you are having difficulties with the other parent regarding these issues and would like to try to resolve or intend to file a motion regarding the same, you will need to first request that mediation be scheduled. A member of our staff will send the appropriate referral to Community Mediation Services who will be in contact with you to schedule the mediation. If a settlement is reached, the agency will provide a copy of the settlement agreement to the Friend of the Court office, who will then prepare an administrative order encompassing that agreement. Please note that support-related matters are not to be addressed during custody/parenting time mediation as it is a separate issue and has its own guidelines and requirements. If mediation is unsuccessful, then either party may proceed to file a motion and schedule a hearing before the Judge.