Below is information about custody that is specific to Michigan. There is also a custody page with general information that you may find helpful.
How will a judge make a decision about custody?
Can a parent who committed violence get custody or visitation?
Should I start a court case to ask for supervised visitation?
Where can I find more information on custody in Michigan?
A judge will make a decision about custody based on what s/he thinks is in your child’s best interest. The judge will look at any factor that s/he thinks is important to make this decision. According to Michigan law, when determining what is in the best interest of the child, the judge will look at:
- the love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child;
- the ability and willingness of the parties involved to:
- give the child love, affection, and guidance;
- continue the education and raising of the child in her or his religion, if any;
- provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and other material needs,
- encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent - however, any reasonable action taken by a parent to protect himself/herself or his/her child from sexual assault or domestic violence by the child's other parent cannot be looked upon negatively;
- the length of time the child has lived in a stable environment and the desire to keep the situation as is;
- the permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home;
- the moral character of all individuals involved;
- the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
- the home, school and community record of the child;
- the child’s preference for who s/he wants to live with, if the judge believes the child is old enough to give his/her preference;
- acts of domestic violence (Note: It doesn’t matter if the violence was directed at, or witnessed by, the child or not); and
- any other factor that a judge considers important.1
1 See MCL § 722.23
The judge will take into consideration any act of domestic violence committed by either parent, regardless of whether the violence was directed against, or witnessed by, the child.1 It is possible, however, that a parent who has committed violence will get custody or visitation.
It is recommended that you seek legal advice from a lawyer to assist you in a custody case involving domestic violence issues. For information on how to find a lawyer, see our MI Finding a Lawyer page.
1 See MCL § 722.23(k)
If you are not comfortable with the abuser being alone with your child, you might be thinking about asking the judge to order that visits with your child be supervised. If you are already in court because the abuser filed for visitation or custody, you may not have much to lose by asking that the visits be supervised if you can present a valid reason for your request (although this may depend on your situation).
However, if there is no current court case, please get legal advice BEFORE you start a court case to ask for supervised visits. We strongly recommend that you talk to an attorney who specializes in custody matters to find out what you would have to prove to get the visits supervised and how long supervised visits would last, based on the facts of your case.
In the majority of cases, supervised visits are only a temporary measure. Although the exact visitation order will vary by state, county, or judge, the judge might order a professional to observe the other parent on a certain amount of visits or the visits might be supervised by a relative for a certain amount of time -- and if there are no obvious problems, the visits may likely become unsupervised. Oftentimes, at the end of a case, the other parent ends up with more frequent and/ or longer visits than s/he had before you went into court or even some form of custody.
In some cases, to protect your child from immediate danger by the abuser, starting a case to ask for custody and supervised visits is appropriate. To find out what may be best in your situation, please go to MI Finding a Lawyer to seek out legal advice.