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Child Custody

 
The following provides general information about child custody.  There is no specific information available in this Self-Help Center to aid you in establishing child custody because it is done through either a divorce case, a family support case, or a paternity case and specific self-help is not available for either of those types of cases. For specific information on processing a request to change an existing child custody order, see the Changing a Child Custody Order Self-Help Center.  You may want to view the pamphlet, It's Important to Know Your Rights.  Because of the complexity of child custody matters and the importance of the outcome, it may be advisable to contact an attorney.
 
A custody order establishes both the custody and parenting time arrangement for the children. A custody order is required for all minor children, and can be reviewed and changed if both parties agree and the court revises the order, or if a motion is filed with the court. You may want to view the Michigan Custody Guideline, which includes answers to the most frequently asked custody questions.
 
Two common custodial arrangements are sole custody and joint custody. In a sole custody arrangement, the children live primarily with one parent. That parent is responsible for the care and control of the children as well as making decisions relating to the children's welfare. In a joint legal custody arrangement, the parents share in making the important decisions relating to the children. In addition, the parents may share physical custody of the children.
 
If parents cannot agree upon who should have custody of their children, the court will determine custody after considering the factors listed in the Child Custody Act. The factors are used to examine qualities of the parents and the child's relationship with each parent. The factors may be viewed at Child Custody Act. The preference of a child is only one of twelve factors that the court must consider.

 

Enforcing Child Custody Orders

Unless you have opted not to receive the services of the friend of the court or your court order does not contain specific custody language, the friend of the court will assist in enforcing custody orders.
 
When parents cannot resolve problems regarding custody, the friend of the court office in the county where the case is filed can help parents reach an agreement, and if appropriate, take action to enforce the court order. You may want to view the Model Friend of the Court Handbook for some common child custody questions and answers.  Domestic relations mediation provides parents with the opportunity to communicate, cooperate, and, with the assistance of a neutral third party, resolve disputes regarding custody. Parties often find this rewarding, because they make the decisions instead of the judge or referee at a court proceeding or trial. If an agreement is reached during mediation, that agreement must be put in writing and signed by the parties. The friend of the court must provide, either directly or by contract, domestic relations mediation to assist the parties in voluntarily settling any dispute concerning child custody.
 
The friend of the court is required to enforce custody orders. The law says that upon receipt of a written complaint stating the specific facts alleging a violation of a custody order, the friend of the court shall initiate enforcement proceedings. This is found in the Friend of the Court Act at MCL 552.511b. In addition, Michigan Court Rule, MCR 3.208(B), requires the friend of the court to enforce custody provisions of the court's orders. These provisions may be enforced under the Friend of the Court Act or the Support and Parenting Time Enforcement Act. You may also want to view the Michigan Custody Guideline.
 
The friend of the court must also, upon request, assist a party in preparing a written complaint regarding custody. See MCL 552.511b(1).
 

Changing Child Custody Orders

Unless you have opted not to receive the services of the friend of the court, the friend of the court will assist in changing custody orders.
 
Some friend of the court offices will prepare a legal agreement (called a stipulation or consent order) for a change in custody. The agreement can be a result of mediation or a written agreement that is signed by both parents and submitted to the friend of the court office. Parents should check with their friend of the court office regarding office policy for preparing stipulations and consent orders. Find the address and phone number of your local friend of the court office.
 
Once a custody order has been entered, the court retains authority until the child reaches the age of 18. During this period of time the court can review and change the custody order if the parents agree and the court revises the order, or if a motion is filed and the court believes there is clear and convincing evidence that a change is in the best interests of the child. For additional information about how to file a motion to change a child custody order and what else you need to do, see the Changing a Child Custody Order Self-Help Center.