Divorce means the end of your marriage. It shouldn’t mean the end of your role as a parent.

You want to preserve as much of your time with your children as possible. To make important decisions about their upbringing. To help them understand right from wrong. To laugh with them. To help them grow. When your divorce threatens your time and relationships with your children, you need answers.

Two types of custody

You may have heard about “custody disputes” as though they were all the same thing. The truth is Michigan law considers two separate custody issues:

  • Parenting time. Sometimes called “physical custody.” This refers to the time your children will stay with you in your residence.
  • Decision-making. Also called “legal custody.” This assigns one or both parents the ability to make important decisions about a child’s education, health care, religious upbringing and similar concerns.

The court can divide these as it sees fit. For example, you might win sole decision-making rights but need to share your parenting time.

Joint custody

“Joint custody” refers to the division of either parenting time or decision-making. It can also refer to the division of both.

The law demands that parents are informed about joint custody in any custody dispute. It also presumes that joint custody is in your child’s best interest, but the court won’t assume that means a 50-50 split. Instead, it will award custody based on the evidence presented. This may even lead the court to decide that it should award one parent sole physical and legal custody.

Understanding your child’s best interests

In the end, the court won’t try to satisfy either you or your ex. It will aim to do right by your kids. The law demands that the judge presiding over your case consider your children’s best interests ahead of other concerns.

This means you want to think about how your children’s time with you may be in their best interests. You want to show how it’s in their best interests for you to make important decisions about their futures. To do this, you need to speak the court’s language.

You want to address the court’s concerns for such things as:

  • Your emotional ties with the children
  • Your ability to give them love and help them grow
  • Your care for their physical needs
  • The stability of your home
  • Your moral fitness
  • Your mental and physical health
  • Your involvement at home, school and in the community
  • Any domestic violence

The value of advocacy

If you face a custody dispute, the stakes are high. You want an attorney who can help the court see things your way. This often means anticipating counterarguments and making yours stronger.