The divorce process can generate a lot of stress and confusion for anyone. To make matters worse, you may hear or read many types of incorrect information about some crucial matters.
One area rife with misinformation is that of how child custody works. It is important to get the facts straight if you want to act in the best interests of yourself and your children.
1. Mothers get custody, fathers get visitation
Many people still believe mothers automatically get custody unless there are highly extraordinary circumstances. In fact, Michigan law provides that child custody determinations should be made based on the child’s best interests.
Some relevant factors include the child’s relationship with both parents, the type of care arrangement that currently exists, what arrangement would least disrupt the child’s stability and health, and other issues either parent experiences that may affect the ability to parent properly, as well as any other factors a judge may deem relevant.
Parents may also come to an agreement about the best arrangement for them. Custody options include sole custody with potential visitation or shared custody; this applies to legal and physical custody.
2. No support, no visitation
Child custody and child support relate to one another insofar as a parent who has a greater share of or sole custody will usually bear more living expenses for the child and can be more likely to receive than pay support. However, one parent’s failure to comply with the parenting schedule does not give the other the right to withhold support. Conversely, a parent cannot punish the nonpayment of support by limiting parenting time. When a parent does not comply with established court orders, the best option is usually to pursue redress in court.
3. It is easier to work things out informally
Sometimes, divorced parents are able to cooperate amicably. In such a situation, it can be tempting to arrange matters informally rather than going through the trouble of requesting a modification from the court. However, when deviations from the order occur on a regular basis rather than upon rare occasion, it is generally a good idea to go through the formalities to get a modified order.
When both parents agree on modifications, courts tend to approve such requests. On the other hand, parents who maintain informal arrangements risk arguments and accusations of violating the existing order if the other parent no longer wishes to cooperate.