Michigan bases its child custody court decisions on the 'best interests of the child' as set forth by Michigan divorce laws. You have the opportunity to agree on a Parenting Plan and a Visitation Schedule with your spouse. Should that fail, the family court will impose its own version of a parenting and visitation or custody plan. Considerations the court uses in its child custody rulings are:
- The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parents involved and the child,
- The capacity of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion,
- The capacity of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care. 'How long the child has lived in a stable environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity',
- The permanence 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 a preference,
- The willingness and ability of each of the parties to 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 against or witnessed by the child,
- Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.
Michigan divorce laws define child custody
Download Michigan Divorce Forms
[Michigan Compiled Laws - Section: 552.16 and 722.23]
Michigan does provide for certain grounds for a marriage annulment (also called a marital annulment or a divorce annulment) such as a party having a current spouse, one of the parties not being of sufficient age, being mentally incompetent, having venereal disease, or being sterile or impotent.
The process is similar to a divorce, except that one must prove in some detail why there are grounds for annulment. Annulments are issued for marriages that never should have been. If there has been concealment, or the marriage was the result of a joke or dare, it can be annulled.
If you claim you were forced or defrauded into marriage, make sure there is no cohabitation after you file. That will terminate your action.
If you claim physical incapacity as a ground, you must bring an action within two years of your marriage.
[Michigan Compiled Laws - Section: 552.34, 551.1, 552.29–.30]
Michigan child support laws is based on and what is called the Income Shares Model. The Family Court may at any time after the filing of a petition for divorce (or any other action involving minor children) issue an order for the care, custody, and support of the minor children of the parties. Courts also have the latitude to issue child support orders, in certain circumstances, for children who are not minors.
Courts will follow state divorce laws with an order for income withholding unless good cause is shown why not to do so. Trying to calculate how much a child support payment is under the income shares format can get pretty dicey. In cases where a party is intentionally unemployed or under-employed, the courts will impute (calculate what that person is capable of earning), and assign that amount without regard to that person's lowered income. See this site's link to the Michigan child support laws that are the basis for calculating child support.
Once your child has reached the age of 19, the child support obligations end, unless a successful petition has extended the time frame.
Health Care Coverage for Minor Children
If a Michigan child support order is entered, the court will require that one or both parents obtain or maintain health care coverage that is available to them at a reasonable cost, as a benefit of employment, for the benefit of the minor children of the parties and, subject to section 5b, for the benefit of the parties' children who are not minor children. If a parent is self-employed and maintains health care coverage, the court will require the parent to obtain or maintain dependent coverage for the benefit of the minor children of the parties and, subject to section 5b, for the benefit of the parties' children who are not minor children, if available at a reasonable cost.
[Michigan Compiled Laws - Section: 552.15. 552.16, 552.452]
In the State of Michigan there isn't a process that is specifically called a legal separation where you file papers and you are immediately legally separated. There is a Michigan Separate Maintenance action however, which is what most people think of when they mean a legal separation in MI. The process is the same as for a divorce, and all issues except marital status get settled. Those that complete the separate maintenance action typically do so for religious or health care insurance coverage reasons.
If a marriage separation (sometimes referred to as a marital separation or separate maintenance action) has been decreed, the court may make such further orders for the support and maintenance of either spouse and for the support, maintenance, and education of minor children, by either spouse, or out of the property of either spouse, as the court deemed appropriate.
In the course of a separation or divorce, the parties have an opportunity to reach a divorce settlement with respect to marital assets and debts. If there is no agreement between the parties, the courts will impose a settlement.
Michigan has interesting language in its provision for dividing marital assets, and seems to go beyond the standard "fair and equitable" verbiage found in other states. The statement seems to encourage courts to strengthen the position of stay-at-home parents who jointly decided with the spouse that their stay-at-home status was an equal contribution to all assets accumulated.
In a proceeding of divorce, a Michigan circuit court may 'award to a party all or a portion of the property, either real or personal, owned by his or her spouse, as appears to the court to be equitable under all the circumstances of the case, if it appears from the evidence in the case that the party contributed to the acquisition, improvement, or accumulation of the property. The decree, upon becoming final, shall have the same force and effect as a quitclaim deed of the real estate, if any, or a bill of sale of the personal property, if any, given by the party's spouse to the party.'
Divorcing couples often find themselves at odds over retirement accounts funded by one or both parties, and disagreements arise when determining what division, if any, is appropriate. Courts examine contributions, the timing of them and any appreciation of retirement accounts (such as a 401k, pension plan or Individual Retirement Accounts), and decide what assets must be given to one spouse from another, using a court order called a QDRO. This review is done today largely by computer software, and submitted to the judge. Your divorce attorney will often use an outside, third-party expert to compile the data (professional fees), and then attach legal fees in the course of prosecuting or defending your case. Are you getting an idea how much this can cost?
QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) - You have choices today that didn't exist that many years ago. You can use the same software program(s) the lawyers and retirement experts use to divide retirement assets, and save a good deal of money. If this sounds like it is something that might benefit you, get your spouse to agree to collaborate and complete the exercise yourself. See The QDRO Desk.
Lock up the assets
If you think your spouse might try to hide assets, or spend them, we suggest you file a petition for a financial temporary restraining order. This order prevents liquidating assets or spending money beyond the basic necessities of daily living. You might first consider allocating enough funds to see yourself through, because the restraining order will apply to you too.
[Michigan Compiled Laws - Section: 552.19, 552.101 and 552.401]
The court will consider the length of the marriage, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each of the parties and the opportunity of each for future acquisition of capital assets and income.
Parties may request alimony or maintenance (sometimes referred to as spousal support) at any time after the initial filing, and are not required to produce evidence or explanation in the initial petition for alimony. The defendant may either admit the grounds for separate alimony or maintenance or deny them without further explanation. An admission by the defendant of the grounds for separate alimony or maintenance can be considered by the court but is not binding on the court's determination. The defendant may also file a counterclaim for divorce.
If a counterclaim for divorce is entered, it need not be accompanied with proof, and is not binding on the court.
If evidence is presented in open court that there has been a breakdown in the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved, the court shall enter:
- A judgment of separate maintenance if a counterclaim for divorce has not been filed,
- A judgment dissolving the bonds of matrimony if a counterclaim for divorce has been filed.
Alimony granted to a party by the court can be temporary, for a specific period, or permanent. Remarriage or cohabitation can cause the alimony to be voided.
[Michigan Compiled Laws - Section: 552.13, 552.23 and 552.452]
Michigan has officially adopted the term parenting time and retired 'visitation'. The parents have the opportunity to fashion a Child Custody or Parenting Time Arrangement, and submit the Parenting Plan to the court. If the plan complies with state law, the Court will generally enter the agreed upon a final dissolution order. In the event that you can find common ground with your spouse, be careful to leave nothing to interpretation. Be as specific as you can including the right language in your agreement. For guidance, see the four pages listed above in custody section.
In order to fully agree with any parenting plan, custody agreement or child visitation plan, you'll need to be involved in creating the plans. You can depend on a lawyer to put your wishes in the document, or you can actually do it yourself with Parenting Plan software. What are the rights and responsibilities of each parent? Who has legal custody? Which holiday does the child spend with you? What time and where may the other parent pick the child up? What time should the child be returned home? What is the procedure to follow if either of you are running late and won't be there on time? How much notice should you be given if they are planning a vacation? How far away may the other spouse move? What about future partners of your's or your ex's? Should those partners stay overnight when the children are there? Do they need to be married? Remember, should there be no agreement reached between you and your spouse, the court will determine custody and visitation in what it believes is the best interests of the children.
Factors in Determining Child Visitation
- The existence of any special circumstances or needs of the child,
- Whether the child is a nursing child less than 6 months of age, or less than 1 year of age if the child receives substantial nutrition through nursing,
- The reasonable likelihood of abuse or neglect of the child during parenting time,
- The reasonable likelihood of abuse of a parent resulting from the exercise of parenting time,
- The inconvenience to, and burdensome impact or effect on, the child of traveling for purposes of parenting time,
- Whether a parent can reasonably be expected to exercise parenting time in accordance with the court order,
- Whether a parent has frequently failed to exercise reasonable. parenting time,
- The threatened or actual detention of the child with the intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent or from a third person who has legal custody. A custodial parent's temporary residence with the child in a domestic violence shelter shall not be construed as evidence of the custodial parent's intent to retain or conceal the child from the other parent,
- Any other relevant factors.
Grounds for divorce can be filed based on the allegation that there has been a breakdown of the marriage and the relationship has been destroyed and no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved. Irreconcilable differences is the common phrase used in such a pleading. The defendant may either admit the grounds for divorce or deny them without further explanation. Should the defendant admit to the grounds, the court is not bound to make that determination until the court is satisfied that the admission is true and correct.
The court shall enter a judgment dissolving the marriage if evidence is present to affirms the filing charges. Make certain there is no cohabitation after the filing for divorce. You will be asked to swear under oath, and if you admit to it (cohabitation), the judge can throw out your case.
[Michigan Compiled Laws - Section: 552.6]
The divorce laws in Michigan dictate that either the person filing the petition for divorce, or the respondent must have resided in Michigan for 180 days immediately preceding that filing of the complaint. 19 days must have elapsed for one or the other in a particular county to file an action in that county. Certain conditions allow petitioners to have the 10 day county residency waived.
[Michigan Compiled Laws - Section: 552.9]
In cases where a filing of divorce is presented, 60 days must have passed before any testimony may be taken, or any final judgment rendered. An exception to that 60 days would occur in cases of desertion. In petitions where minor children are involved, 180 days from the date of filing must elapse before any testimony may be taken. Hardship cases involving children can have the 60 day waiting period waived by a motion to the court. When the defendant lives outside of MI at the time of the filing, or did not live in MI when the alleged cause for the divorce occurred, the spouse filing the action must provide proof that the couple lived in Michigan for some period of time, or that the petitioner resided in Michigan for one year prior to the filing.
Unless a court has ruled otherwise, there are no restrictions against remarriage following a divorce decree.
Visitation can be awarded if:
- the parents of the grandchild have started or completed a separation, divorce or annulment
- if a parent has deceased
- if the parents are unmarried but have established paternity
Where parents are unmarried, paternal grandparents may petition for visitation only if the father has contributed substantial and regular support or care. Should both parents object to a grandparents petition, and do so in writing with the court, the visitation can be denied. That provision does not apply if a step-parent is adopting or has adopted the child.
A Word On Your Journey Toward Healing And Recovery ...
At some point in the process, you will likely discover that you will not be able to manage the divorce recovery all by yourself. If you are a man, you are apt to bury the hurt and anguish and force yourself to Move On. However, unresolved feelings are just that- unresolved, and are likely to become issues later on. If you are a woman, you will feel the process more, and likely will experience a feeling of loss while feeling lost. We recommend you spend time discovering why things worked out as they did, so that you grow with the new knowledge. We offer a myriad of tools that can get you to the other side. The more you learn, the less you fear. Trust us on this. Spend some time and a few bucks and the return will be ten-fold.