Joint custody is an order of the court in which one or both of the following is specified:
- That the child shall reside alternately for specific periods with each parent.
- That parents shall share decision-making authority as to the important decisions affecting the welfare of the child.
At the request of either parent, the court will consider an award of joint custody. In other cases joint custody may be considered by the court. The court determines whether joint custody is in the best interest of the child by considering the following factors:
- The factors listed in the Custody section (from the Michigan Child Custody Act).
- Whether the parents will be able to cooperate and generally agree concerning important decisions affecting the welfare of the child.
During the time a child resides with a parent, that parent shall decide all routine matters concerning the child. Joint custody does not eliminate the responsibility for child support. The court may order support payments for a portion of housing expenses even during a time the child is not living in the home of the parent receiving support. By itself, an order of joint custody shall not constitute grounds for modifying a support order.
Divorced parents should work together
The court and the Friend of the Court emphasize the importance of parents working together in raising the minor children. When parents cooperate, children have a better chance for secure and satisfying lives. Studies show that children do poorly when parental conflict continues and when one parent is not a meaningful part of the child's life. Children do best when parents cooperate in co-parenting after the divorce and are able to focus on their children's needs and best interests.
Custody can be changed
After the Judgment of Divorce, if there is a substantial change of circumstances, custody can be changed. A party must petition the court by a motion to modify the judgment. This motion may be brought by you or your own attorney. If you choose to file this motion yourself, you may request a motion form from the Friend of the Court Office. After the parties put the custody matter at issue, the court may order an investigation by the Friend of the Court. The Friend of the Court will not begin a custody investigation to assist either party to decide whether to file a motion for custody. The Friend of the Court, however, may advise a parent about the option of filing a motion to change custody.
Many parties agree to change custody as the children get older or circumstances change. This is done without a court appearance by contacting private counsel to prepare a stipulation (i.e., an agreement between the parties) or by contacting the Friend of the Court to arrange for a consent order to be prepared.
Custodial parents are not required to be perfect
The court only enforces a reasonable degree of custodial care and supervision, and not necessarily the standard that the noncustodial parent would impose. The custodial parent is allowed a range of human failings, and a simple mistake or error in judgment will not result in a change of custody.