Child custody determinations are among the most complex analysis that a judge has to perform in a family law case. The Michigan legislature has created a set of factors that a judge must use when evaluating questions of “best interests of the child” for child custody. There are 12 formal factors set out in the statutes, which are used to define what is meant by the “best interests of the child.”
To answer those 12 factors, the judge will evaluate each factor as part of their child custody analysis. For instance, the first factor, “The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.”
In analyzing this, the judge will want specific examples and evidence that demonstrates that emotional tie, and the more specific the examples, the better. Related to this custody analysis will be the parenting time determination.
Which means when you develop your parenting time plan for your child or children, you should work through that list of factors, addressing each point, and noting how the answer supports your plan.
It is important to be extremely honest with this analysis. If you want shared custody, it is crucial that your parenting time plan work. If your child can tolerate changing residences weekdays during the school year, you need to be certain that the handoff times will work with your schedule and will work every week, with very limited exceptions.
If you travel frequently for work, you need to account for this in your plan, as needing to alter a weekly schedule three out of four weeks in a month could drive the other parent to return to court to modify the child custody arrangements.
The parenting time determination has its own set of eight factors plus a ninth catch-all for “any other relevant factors.” You and your attorney should work through these factors, again focusing on any that have particular applicability to your situation.
Yes, this is all very complex, but it will be the blueprint for your life with your children until they reach adulthood, so you want to be certain that it is done correctly.