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Custody, Parenting Time and Child Support


Child Custody

This issue is often the most emotional and traumatic part of a divorce matter. Child custody has two components: legal custodythe major decisions regarding raising the child (education, religion, medical care)—and physical custody—with whom the child primarily lives. The basis for determining child custody is “the best interests of the child.”

Sole or joint custody is possible for both of these types of custody. If a parent requests joint custody, the court is required to consider it and state on the record the reasons for granting or denying the request. The court shall determine whether joint custody is in the best interest of the child by considering the "best interest" factors and whether the parents will be able to cooperate and generally agree concerning important decisions affecting the welfare of the child. Joint custody will be awarded if both parties agree upon it, unless the court determines on the record, based upon clear and convincing evidence, that joint custody is not in the best interests of the child. If the parties cannot agree, this subject is best left to an indepth discussion with your attorney due to the extensive nature of custody disputes and the laws involved.

Parenting Time

When parents live in separate homes, the challenges of raising children are greater because relationships become more complicated. Parenting time is the schedule by which the children spend time with their parents. The right parenting time schedule can help a co-parenting relationship be successful and provide a smooth transition for the parties' children. The wrong parenting time schedule can make things more difficult. Sometimes parents disagree about how much time children should spend with each parent or the schedule for parenting time. Decisions about parenting time depend on many things, including the age of the child and the child's development, as well as the "best interest" factors. Michigan law presumes it is in the best interests of a child for the child to have a strong relationship with both parents. Adult children of divorce describe the loss of contact with a parent and conflict between their parents as the most painful part of divorce or parental separation. However, sometimes special circumstances may indicate that the involvement of a parent should be limited or restricted.

Child Support

Child support is based mainly on the Child Support Formula Manual (the “Guidelines”). It is a formula relating to income and the number of overnights the child spends with each parent (or, in some cases, a third party). In addition, adjustments may be made for daycare and health insurance costs. Child support is usually ordered until the child attains the age of 18 years or until the child graduates from high school, so long as the minor child has not yet reached 19 years and six months and regularly attends high school full time with a reasonable expectation of graduating. The child must also reside full time with the payee of support or at an institution. Child support is usually payable through income withholding from the payor's employer. The Varnum Family Law Team is experienced in using creative solutions to deal with complex payment and income issues.

For more information, please contact either your Varnum attorney, or Julia Perkins at 248/567-7427 or

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