Michigan parents concerned about potential divorce litigation should know the biggest disputes in most cases are related to child custody. Parents are typically emotional and highly motivated regarding parenting time and the unpleasant prospect of being forced to spend time away from their children. An awareness of legal principles and typical points of controversy can help divorcing parents understand and prepare for the process.

The primary guiding principle for judges presiding over custody disputes is the best interests of children involved. Child welfare is the prism through which every judicial decision must be filtered. Judges are charged with the uncomfortable responsibility of balancing interests that are competing. For example, residential stability is a key component but it must be weighed against the need for children and parents to spend time together and often one must be sacrificed for the other. Frequent moves are known to be stressful and any parent hoping to maximize custodial time should present a stable environment as quickly as possible after separation.

If there are multiple children to a marriage they are unlikely to be separated, so if one child is involved in extracurricular activities making one parent’s residence decidedly preferable to the other it could weigh heavily in the overall plan for all kids. Courts generally encourage parents to fully integrate themselves into children’s lives and joint custody arrangements are preferred unless the children’s best interests require modifications. When parents follow the court’s lead and focus on the best interests of the children, they are often able to land on the same page regarding the basic structure of a custody plan. If this is impossible, a court may appoint an independent advocate to visit both homes and make recommendations for the children.

Divorce and child custody disputes are among the most stressful events in life. A qualified family law attorney may be able to provide invaluable insight and guidance to navigate the distressing circumstances associated with marital dissolution.