Michigan parents who separate or divorce often have many challenges ahead of them. They need to construct a schedule for sharing parenting time, which can often dominate negotiations or litigation. From the general division of time with the kids to how the family will share holidays and birthdays, negotiating custody arrangements requires that parents discuss many potentially emotional matters.
Parents should not forget about the importance of decision-making authority when talking about custody matters for their children. Also known as legal custody, it can be as important as physical custody and/or parenting time, as legal custody gives parents the right to seek medical treatment or enroll their children in a particular school.
Shared authority is the most common arrangement
Michigan state statutes preemptively address the need of a parent to make decisions and certain scenarios. Parents generally have the legal right to make decisions about basic daily matters during their scheduled parenting time. However, they will usually share legal authority over their children, which means that they will often need to cooperate and compromise.
If one parent wants to relocate with the children, move them into a different school district or seek elective medical care, the other parent may disagree about their claim that those moves are in the best interests of the children. In some scenarios, parents can work together and reach a solution that will be in the best interest of the children.
Other times, they may need to go back to court to resolve disagreements about legal custody. Focusing on the needs of the children rather than the rights of the parent will usually be the most effective approach when preparing for family court related to a dispute about decision-making authority.
Those who have very strong preferences regarding their children’s faith, healthcare or education may want to employ greater caution when negotiating the terms of their co-parenting arrangements to ensure they have a say in major decisions and to minimize the likelihood of future custody litigation. Understanding how the courts handle decision-making authority can benefit those preparing for divorce or navigating shared custody arrangements in Michigan.