Divorce and separation are never easy, but the involvement of minor children can make the process even more destabilizing. The separation process, and negotiations for child custody, may uproot the children’s lives. Children rely on stability and routine for their development and emotional health. When a marriage ends, it may make a child feel like everything has changed. They may need to move, change schools, and even get used to seeing less of a parent. It can also be traumatizing for children to see their parents struggle through such a stressful, overwhelming time.
At Melissa Pearce & Associates, we understand from personal experience the difficulties children of divorce face. We take care to meet the social and emotional needs of children whose parents are separating. The divorce and child custody process can become adversarial, but as much as possible, we focus on protecting children involved. We are not only experienced divorce attorneys, but experienced counselors. We help clients communicate with their children regarding important decisions. First and foremost, children must understand that both parents love them and they hold no fault for the divorce. Our experienced Michigan child custody lawyers strive to work cooperatively with our clients and their children to reach a fair child custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the child.
Child custody refers to the legal and physical guardianship of a child. When a couple faces a divorce, or when parents were unmarried when the child was born, the parents have to face difficult questions about where the child will live, and who gets to make important legal decisions on the child’s behalf.
Physical custody determines which parent the child will reside with at which time and for how long. Joint physical custody means that the child splits the time between both parents’ residences, where one parent usually has primary custody and the other parent has custody according to a parenting time schedule. Sole custody means the child only lives with one parent. The non-custodial parent may or may not have visitation rights to see the child.
Legal custody refers to a parent’s ability to make decisions on behalf of the child. These decisions may relate to the health, education, welfare, religion, or other important elements of the child’s life. Legal custody may also be granted on a joint or sole basis. Joint legal custody means the parents must work together to agree on these important decisions. Sole legal custody places the responsibility of these decisions on one of the parents.
Parents may negotiate and come to an agreement on the terms of a custody agreement. This is always ideal, as it avoids the expense and stress of a custody dispute. We work diligently with our clients to provide a calm, reliable voice to reach the most amicable arrangement. Unfortunately, the process for custody agreements is not always a smooth one.
Michigan law assumes that it is in the best interest of a child to have a relationship with both parents. Generally, if parents can agree on a parenting time schedule, the court will honor it unless it is clear that it is not in the best interests of the child. If parents cannot agree, the court may determine the parenting time schedule. In doing so, the court will consider various factors including:
Parenting time orders from a court may be quite general or more specific. In some instances, the order may include how parents will divide transportation, schedules for parenting time and who is permitted to be present, or other conditions the court finds suitable. When a child reaches a certain age and maturity level, the court may also consider the child’s preferences.
We also understand that circumstances change over time. A court order is rarely the final word on a child custody or parenting time agreement. We support our clients through post-judgment modifications to ensure the best interests of the children are always a priority.
Parents seeking custody of their children should have an experienced Michigan family lawyer by their side before stepping into family court. We support our clients through every step of this difficult process. The right to parent your child is deeply personal and emotional, and it can be daunting to have a court involved in these important decisions. We fight for our clients’ interests, and the interests of their children, when facing child custody disputes. Contact us today to schedule your pre-engagement meeting.