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Michigan Child Custody Factors

Deciding child custody and visitation issues is one of the most significant challenges that a parent can face. Michigan law presumes that custody should be awarded to the parent or parents, unless there's clear and convincing evidence to the contrary; in those cases, other parties such as grandparents may be awarded custody. However, most child custody issues involve the parents and will include a few possibilities. A parent who has "legal custody" means that the parent is the one who has the decision-making rights and responsibilities concerning the child's health care, education, socialization, and religion. "Physical custody" refers to the amount of time a child spends in a parent's care. Custody is further distinguished by "sole custody" (only one parent has custody) and "joint custody" where both parents share custody.

Michigan encourages parents to opt for joint custody whenever possible and to agree to their own parenting plans. When the parents can't agree, the court will make a custody determination using numerous factors that are ultimately based on the child's best interests.

Michigan Child Custody Factors at a Glance

Understanding the full text of the relevant statutes is crucial when dealing with legal issues. However, you can obtain important information from an explanation of the statutes in more readable terms. The chart below provides a synopsis of the law that governs Michigan's child custody factors.


Best Interest Factors

Michigan looks to the following factors when determining the best interests of a child:

  • The love, affection and other emotional ties between the parents and the child;
  • The capacity/disposition of the parties to give the child love, affection and guidance, and to continue the education and raising the child in its religion;
  • The capacity/ disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing and care;
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
  • The permanence of the existing or proposed home;
  • The moral fitness of the parties;
  • The mental and physical health of the parties;
  • 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 it;
  • The willingness of the parties to facilitate/ encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • Domestic violence; and
  • Any other factor that the court considers to be relevant.

Joint Custody Factors

When making the joint custody decision, the court will consider whether the parents will be able to cooperate and generally agree concerning decisions affecting the child's welfare.

Criminal Sexual Conduct

The court can't award custody to a biological parent if the child involved was conceived as a result of that parent's criminal sexual conduct based on a conviction under the Michigan penal code (or a substantially similar statute of another state or the federal government) or if that parent was found (by clear and convincing evidence) to have committed acts of nonconsensual sexual penetration.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Michigan Child Custody Factors: Related Resources

Speak with an Experienced Michigan Attorney about Custody Issues

Whenever parents can't resolve child custody issues, Michigan courts will decide custody based on various factors. Because it can be frightening to have your child's fate determined by others, consult with an experienced child custody attorney in your area who can advocate on your behalf.

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