Those going through a divorce, as well as unmarried couples, will find themselves having to deal with child custody issues if they have children in common.

In some cases, which are less common, there may be a custody dispute involving another relative or caregiver for a child.

Michigan law handles child custody similarly to the way many other states address this question. For instance, the paramount goal for a court is always to do what is in the best interests of the children involved.

Michigan recognizes two different types of custody, legal and physical. Legal custody is the power of a parent, or other adult, to make important decisions on behalf of a child, including decisions about health care, education and religion.

Physical custody, as the name implies, is the right of a parent to have time with their children in the parent’s home. While the child is with the parent, that parent has the right to make daily decisions, like bedtime and the like.

A judge in Michigan can order joint custody or can order what people commonly refer to as sole custody. A parent who has sole custody has all decision-making power and also will spend the vast majority of time with the child.

Joint legal custody means that both parents must agree to major decisions which impact the child, unless the court orders otherwise. Joint physical custody means that both parents will spend significant time with their children, perhaps several weeks out of the year. However, a judge may but need not divide the time 50-50.

When parents are not able to agree on a viable custody plan, courts will decide the best interests of the children considering a number of factors listed in the law. These factors include items like the health and well-being of both the child and each parent.