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When Can a Michigan Court Resolve an Interstate Child Custody Dispute?

Mass migration is occurring throughout the US as workers attempt to find work due to the current economic downturn. As these workers travel – often with their families in-tow – they can experience many financial hardships. Unfortunately, the stress of these financial difficulties can often lead to parents, and thus families, splitting up.

When parents do split, child custody will often be hotly contested. However, given that these families may have lived in various states searching for work, it may be difficult to ascertain which state will be able to resolve their interstate child custody dispute.

Jurisdiction of Michigan Courts in Child Custody Disputes

Jurisdiction, and thus the ability of a Michigan court to make a child custody decision, is governed by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act in Michigan.

Under Michigan law, unless there is an emergency or need for a temporary child custody order, the ONLY circumstances in which a Michigan court can make a child custody determination are:

  • When Michigan is the home state of the child – which means that the child resides in Michigan on the date of the commencement of the proceeding, or was the home state of the child within six months before commencement and the child is now absent but a parent still lives in Michigan
  • When another state does not have, or declines, jurisdiction and either the child and at least one parent have significant connections to Michigan – such as schools, family and doctors – or substantial evidence is located in Michigan concerning the child’s protection, care and personal relationships
  • When all state courts that have the ability to make a child custody determination under the previous two options decline to do so because Michigan is a more appropriate and convenient forum
  • When no court in any state has jurisdiction under the first three options above, a Michigan court can elect to make the child custody determination.

Moreover, even if a Michigan court possesses the power to make a child custody determination under the tests above, they still may decline to do so if they believe there is another state court that is more appropriate to make the decision or if there is already a child custody proceeding properly initiated in another state court.

Child custody laws can be very complex and difficult to comprehend – especially when traveling or residing in multiple states. An experienced child custody attorney can help navigate the law, and advise someone involved in a custody dispute as to their rights and options.