Family Law & Divorce
(f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
(j) 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. A court may not consider negatively for the purposes of this factor any reasonable action taken by a parent to protect a child or that parent from sexual assault or domestic violence by the child’s other parent.
(k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
(l) Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.
Consulting with a highly experienced family law attorney is crucial in understanding and tackling a full evaluation of the best interest factors in a custody dispute.
30. What is “parenting time”?
Parenting time refers to a specific schedule of days and time the child spends with each parent. Because each family is different, and every case is different, the specific parenting time plan can vary quite a bit from case to case, however, Michigan law provides that parenting time should be awarded in a frequency, duration, and type reasonably calculated to promote a strong relationship between the child and the parent granted parenting time.
31. Can I bring my kids to court?
No. You cannot bring your children to court, unless the judge assigned to your case has specifically asked to meet with them. Otherwise, due to the often sensitive nature of the
subject matter discussed in court proceedings, it is not appropriate for children to be present in court.
32. What if my kids want to tell the judge they don’t want to live with or spend time with their other parent?
If the judge wants to speak with your children regarding their preference for custody and/or parenting time, they will request a special “in camera” interview, meaning a private and confidential meeting between the judge and your children, to which neither you nor your spouse will be privy to.
33. What is a “nesting” parenting time schedule?
Nesting is a joint custody arrangement where the children remain in the family home and the parents take turns moving in and out of the home into separate residences. In other words, the parents are “visiting” the children instead of the children visiting the parents. This form of parenting time can be beneficial for children, but will really only work if the parents are extremely amicable.
34. What does “right of first refusal” during parenting time mean?
“Right of first refusal” means that if, during your parenting time, you need to arrange for childcare for your children because you are not available, you must first offer that time to the children’s other parent, and vice versa. For example, if you have parenting time with your children on Saturday night, but you have a wedding to attend and will need to hire a babysitter, you must first ask the child’s other parent if they are available and would like to have that time with the children. This is a difficult provision to enforce, and is only recommended in very limited situations. Speak with a family law attorney to determine if this type of provision is appropriate for your family.
35. Can I move out of Michigan with my kids?
The ability to move outside of the State of Michigan with your children will greatly depend on whether there has been a prior determination of custody and the provisions of any custody order. When parents share joint legal custody, the ability to move out of Michigan requires consent of the other parent or Court approval.
36. Can I travel with my kids after I am divorced?
Depending on the terms of your divorce judgment, travel is only prohibited to countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. However, if you share custody of your child, then you will need to obtain a passport for your child together, or petition the Court to allow you to obtain a passport.
37. My child’s other parent lives in a different school district than I do, where will my child go to kindergarten?
If you and the child’s other parent share joint legal custody, you must make a collective decision regarding where your child will be enrolled in school. If you cannot agree on where to send your child to school, you can file a motion with the court requesting the judge decide where your child will attend school. The judge will hold an evidentiary hearing (like a mini-trial) to determine which school the child should attend. Another way to handle this issue is to attend mediation with an experienced family law mediator, a neutral third party who can assist you and the other parent in coming to an agreement on this issue.
38. How do I change custody?
Custody is modifiable if there has been proper cause or a change in circumstances since the entry of the last Court order. A party wanting to modify custody must file a motion with the Court, and that party bears the burden of establishing the proper cause or change in circumstances. Proper cause means changes that have or could have a significant enough effect on the child’s life such that a change in custody should occur.
A change in circumstances means that since the entry of the last order on custody, conditions which have or could have a significant impact on the child have materially changed. The Court will consider the established custodial environment in determining the weight of the burden by the party requesting the custody change. Established custodial environment exists with the parent whom the child looks to for support, guidance, and basic needs. The Court must also consider what custodial arrangement is in the best interests of the minor child.
39. How do I change parenting time?
Similarly to changing custody, parenting time is modifiable if there has been proper cause or a change in circumstances since entry of the last Court order, and it is in the child’s best interest to modify parenting time. A party wanting to modify parenting time must file a motion with the Court, and has the burden of establishing proper cause or change in circumstances exist to warrant modification of the current parenting time schedule.
40. My kids are refusing to come with me for my court-ordered parenting time and the other parent is telling them they don’t have to, is there anything I can do?
Your child’s other parent cannot unilaterally decide to limit or eliminate your parenting time, regardless of what they allege your child’s preferences are. If this behavior continues, you should have an experienced family law attorney file a motion to enforce the most recent order of the court awarding you parenting time, and to request makeup parenting time.
41. What is Our Family Wizard?
Our Family Wizard is a website designed to facilitate communications between separated or divorced parents in relation to their children. It promotes “cooperative parenting,” and includes features like a calendar to notify each parent of the children’s extracurricular activities, doctor appointments, dentist appointments, etc., and a message board for communicating regarding the children. This program is especially helpful when parents have difficulty communicating in person or via phone, email or text messaging. There is an annual cost associated with using the program. An experienced family law attorney can advise if this program is appropriate for your family.
42. How much child support do I have to pay?
In the State of Michigan, child support is based on a formula which considers each party’s income, number of overnights each party has with the minor child, tax filing status, cost of child care, and health insurance expenses. While there is now an online calculator available for public use, to ensure accurate calculation of child support, it is imperative to consult an experienced family law practitioner.
43. How do I pay child support?
If you are subject to an income withholding order, the Friend of the Court will automatically direct your employer to withhold your support from your paycheck. If you have opted out of the Friend of the Court services, then you are required to submit payments directly to the other party. You should keep track of all payments made and never pay child support in cash.
44. How do I get my child support?
If you are the recipient of child support then you have the right to decide how you want to receive your payments. MISDU (Michigan State Disbursement Unit) will process your support payments by collecting the monies directly from the other party’s employer per an income withholding order, and automatically divert the monies to your account.
45. What is Friend of the Court?
The Friend of the Court is a division of the circuit court which is designed to assist parties in several areas related to their family law issues. This includes providing enforcement for custody, parenting time, and support orders; conducting investigations on custody, parenting time, and support issues; making recommendations on custody, parenting time, and support issues; offering mediation to settle disputes; and providing forms for parties unable to utilize the services of private attorneys.
46. Can I waive my child support?
No. The child support you receive from your child’s other parent is not your money – it is your child’s money, therefore, the court will not allow you to forego receiving child support from the other child’s parent if the Michigan Child Support Formula indicates
that you should be receiving funds. However, in certain circumstances, you can request to deviate from the Michigan Child Support Formula depending upon the specific facts of your case.
47. How do I change child support?
Child support is modifiable based on a change in circumstances since the entry of the last court order. This could mean a decrease or increase in income, a change in parenting time, or an increase or decrease in the cost of health insurance or childcare. The birth of another child by one party may also cause a change in child support.
48. Why did my child’s father receive notice of a paternity action but I didn’t file anything or ask anyone to file anything on my behalf?
If you have applied for, or are receiving any form of state aid, including MIChild, the prosecutor in the county in which the minor child resides likely filed a child support case against the father of your child. Contact an experienced family law attorney at Kelly & Kelly to assist you in navigating through this process.
49. How do I get guardianship of my grandchild, and what effect does a guardianship have?
Guardianship of a minor gives you the power to make decisions on behalf of a minor when the minor’s custodial parent is unable to act in this capacity for their child.
You can obtain guardianship of your grandchild if the child’s parent consents to the guardianship, and agrees to sign the necessary documents that must be filed with the court in order to effectuate the guardianship.
If the child’s parent will not consent to the guardianship, you will need to file a petition for appointment of a guardian of a minor with the probate court in the county in which the child resides at the time of filing.
This can be a complicated process and is best accomplished with the assistance of an attorney experienced in this area of the law.
50. How do I adopt my stepchild?
If the biological parent will not consent to the adoption, then the biological parent’s parental rights must be terminated. Termination can occur if the other parent has not provided regular and substantial support for two years or more, and has also failed to regularly visit or contact the minor child for two years or more. It is also a requirement that to proceed with involuntary termination of one party’s parental rights, the parent making the petition has sole legal custody of the minor child at issue.