When parents separate, there are a few ways they can arrange custody of their children. Parents have the ability to ask a court for joint custody, which means that both parents will make all major decisions for the children together. Often, it is difficult for separated couples to make these joint decisions and a court will instead divide custody into legal and physical. Legal custody gives one parent the ability to make the major life decisions. Physical custody defines the parent who has primary physical care of the child.
Michigan courts try to make custody determinations that are in the best interest of the child. This is a complicated decision and many judges choose to take each situation on a case-by-case basis.
A recent situation in front of a Michigan appeals court had many unique factors for the judge to consider. The same-sex couple was legally married in Canada in 2007. The two women split up after two years. There was also a minor child involved. One woman is the child’s biological mother. The other partner played a role in the child’s life early on, but has no other connection.
The Michigan appeals judge agreed with the lower court’s ruling that the non-biological woman did not have any rights to the child. The judge found that the biological mom had the upper hand in any legal action that concerns her child.
Because Michigan does not recognize gay marriage, the judge could not consider that aspect of the formerly married couple. This ruling stands for the time being, but it will be interesting to see how changes in the law may impact similar child custody cases in the future. There is currently a trial scheduled for February of 2014, in which a federal judge in Detroit will consider a challenge to the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and related laws.
Source: WNMU-FM, “Court says Dickinson County woman has no claim on child,” Nicole Walton, Oct. 22, 2013