Under Michigan law, there is a difference between legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody allows a parent or parents to make decisions for the child; physical custody refers to where the child lives. When parents have joint physical custody, the parents typically have joint legal custody as well. Under most circumstances, when the parents come to an agreement regarding joint custody, the court will accept it, and will allow a parenting plan with joint custody of the child.
Pros and Cons of Joint Physical Custody
Parents may wish to agree to a joint custody arrangement because -- as long as both parents are able to cooperate -- the child benefits from having both parents involved in her life. On the other hand, joint custody requires that the parents must cooperate -- which can be difficult in situations of divorce.
Joint Custody Agreement
If the parents come to an agreement regarding joint custody, the agreement must be submitted to the court as a proposed order. Under most circumstances, the court will approve and enter the order. The parents may even submit this proposed order before the divorce is final. This way, the court may incorporate the language from the joint custody agreement into the final divorce order.
Friend of the Court Mediation
The Michigan Friend of the Court may assist parents who wish to come to an agreement on a joint custody arrangement without having to go to trial or to involve the court. The Friend of the Court offers mediation to parents in this situation. In mediation -- a referee or mediator -- will help work out the details with the parents so that they can avoid involving the court.
As long as one of the parents asks for it, the court must consider a joint custody arrangement. This is true even if the other parent objects to the arrangement and does not want joint custody to be arranged. In situations in which the parents are unable to agree on a joint custody arrangement (and neither parent requests joint custody), the court may still consider joint custody on its own.