How to Establish Custody in Michiagn

By Beverly Bird

Michigan’s statutes don’t technically recognize what most parents think of as sole custody. The state leans toward awarding joint custody, meaning that both parents have an equal say in major decisions. A parenting plan provides for regular, quality time with each of them. If parents request joint custody, Michigan judges are obligated to order it, unless some circumstance exists that would make such an arrangement harmful to the child. When parents dispute custody, Michigan requires many intermediary steps before a judge will make a ruling.

Step 1

Review Michigan’s Child Custody Act. The Act includes several factors a judge must take into consideration when deciding custody. You can read it on Michigan’s family court website. Familiarize yourself with what a judge will look for when deciding to award custody to one parent. For example, a judge isn’t likely to make your child move in with you if it means moving out of the home he’s lived in all his life.

Step 2

Go to the Office of the Friend of the Court in the courthouse in the county where you reside. Ask for a custody and parenting time motion packet. If you were married to your child’s other parent and have already filed for divorce, you can access the form you will need, known as the "Motion Regarding Custody," directly from the state court's website.

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Step 3

Complete your motion packet, filling out all required paperwork. Make several copies and take them to the circuit court clerk in your county. The clerk will file your original paperwork and return your stamped, filed copies to you. Mail a copy to your child’s other parent.

Step 4

Attend mediation. Michigan judges generally will not rule on custody issues until parents have had an opportunity to try to reach an agreement on their own. After you file your motion packet with the court, you'll be assigned a date with a mediator. The mediator will attempt to help you and your child's other parent come up with a custody arrangement that’s best for your child. If you do come to an agreement, the mediator will forward it to a judge to sign into a court order.

Step 5

Meet with an appointed friend of the court if you are unable to reach an agreement through mediation. The friend of the court will also try to mediate with you. If you fail to reach an agreement again, he will file a report with the court, making recommendations as to how a judge should decide custody. The judge will ultimately make this decision at the custody hearing.

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