Sterling Law Office attorneys are dedicated to helping clients understand the legal aspects of child custody. We educate clients on their rights and options to help them make informed decisions about their cases. Our attorneys are experienced in family court and aggressively pursue a resolution that best suits your specific situation and the well-being of your children.
At the beginning of a divorce or upon the separation of unmarried parents, temporary parenting time should be established right away. This gives the children structured access to both parents.
Legal custody is a type of child custody in which rights are given to one parent (sole) or both (joint) to be involved in decisions made for the child.
Parenting time is the time spent with the child.
According to the Michigan Child Custody Act, there are 12 specific factors that affect custody. Our lawyers have an extensive understanding of these factors and how they may affect your case.
Divorce and custody matters are complex litigation and rarely accomplished using Do It Yourself (DIY) programs. Very few family law matters are “simple.” Minor children, paternity, spousal support, separate property, real estate, business interests, and retirement accounts automatically mean your family law matter is not “simple.” Having an attorney, and especially having a Sterling Law attorney, helps you navigate this complicated process. We do however acknowledge that full legal services are not an option for some people, and we can help direct you to appropriate resources. We do contract for certain services on a limited scope basis.
One area of custody that may arise is relocation or change of domicile. We provide representation to parents wishing to relocate and take their children with them in-state or outside of Michigan, and to parents opposing a relocation action. Specific guidelines must be followed when seeking a modification to a custody order based on relocation.
A variety of possible custody arrangements can be set up, depending upon the particular family circumstances. Following is an explanation of how custody matters proceed and definitions of the different forms custody can take.
Defining custody during family dissolution: the issue of custody arises when parents of minor children decide to separate. Some couples cooperate and negotiate for themselves an agreement about custody for the short-term, while the separation or divorce gets settled, and for the long-term. When the parents cannot agree on a custody plan, a hearing for temporary custody is held by the family court to issue an order that outlines a temporary custody assignment. Temporary custody is often granted to the person who remains in the family home, or who typically has done the majority of day-by-day care of the children. Temporary custody orders very often determine what the permanent custody order will be.
Mediation: if custody or a divorce proceeding is contested, Michigan family courts requires the parties to attend mandatory mediation.
Mediation is a method the courts use to try to resolve disputes without going to trial. The parties meet with a professional mediator to review and attempt to come to agreement on issues of contention, such as custody arrangements. When a custody plan is agreed upon in mediation, it can include a requirement that future custody or parenting time disagreements must be returned to the mediation process.
Custody evaluation: when custody is in dispute, the family court may order a custody evaluation before a custody determination is made. The evaluation will include interviews with the parents, the children, and possibly other knowledgeable witnesses. It can also involve psychological testing of the parents and children. A court-appointed social worker, psychologist or other mental health specialist carries out the evaluation and then makes a recommendation on custody to the court. The evaluation process may take from one to three months.
Modification of custody: after a permanent custody agreement has been reached by the parties or ordered by the court, parents can go back to court to request a change or “modification” in the custody arrangement. In Michigan and the majority of states, to protect the children and parties from the turmoil of continuing court battles and upheaval, the parent asking for a modification must show a significant change in circumstances or “proper cause.”
Sole custody: sole physical custody means the children will reside primarily with one “custodial” parent. The other is the “non-custodial” parent, who will have a schedule for parenting time when the children may stay with that parent, such as on alternate weekends, certain holidays or school breaks, etc. One parent would generally only have both sole physical and sole legal custody if the other parent presented some form of harm or danger to the children or if one parent is uninvolved with the children.
Joint custody: joint custody means the parents share the responsibilities for either or both day-by-day care and living situation of the children, and decision-making for the children. Parents must be cooperative with one another and able to perform as a parent team to be able to function well with joint custody.
Split custody: not used as frequently as other types of custody because it entails separating brothers and sisters, a split custody situation is when each parent has custody of different children.
Making decisions about custody is always going to be very hard for a parent. Inevitably it means giving up some part of time with and rearing of children. The manner in which a custody agreement is reached and the building blocks for the future which are laid in the process are of monumental importance for parents and children. The family law attorneys at Sterling Law strongly recommend that parents seek early, experienced legal assistance before tackling custody matters or choices.
Call Sterling Law Office at 231-486-0559 for a free family law phone consult. We follow up phone consults with a Case Evaluation.
At a Case Evaluation, we meet with you in person (or by video conference if you are unable to come to one of our offices). After an intake interview, we hear your story and your goals. We help you understand your legal rights. After we help you sort it all out, we create for you a Plan of Action identifying your Next Steps to reach your goals. We charge a flat fee of $95.00 for the Case Evaluation. Most people find that the Case Evaluation is extremely helpful. We see these potential clients lift their shoulders and breathe a sigh of relief when they leave our office following a Case Evaluation.
After a case evaluation, if the plan of action calls for attorney involvement, you may want to hire our firm to represent you. If so, you can expect to then sign a contract and pay a deposit on your future legal expenses.
Sterling Law Office areas of practice include specialization in advocacy and divorce tailored for men. Sterling Law Office has a strong and successful history of representing both women and men in all areas of family law, including divorce.