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New Law Would Change Joint Custody Requirements

By Iafrate & Salassa

parent holding a schoolgirls's hand before they talk to a clinton township child custody attorney

The Michigan Legislature is currently considering a new bill that if passed, would require judges to award joint custody and substantially equal parenting time in most divorce cases. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee on June 20, although a vote is not expected until after summer recess. If you have questions about how the law could affect you or are concerned about another divorce-related matter, you should contact an experienced family law attorney who can advise you.

House Bill 4691

Under House Bill 4691, courts would be required to award joint custody in divorce cases unless there is evidence of domestic violence. Two years ago, lawmakers considered a similar law, although it never made it out of committee. The recently introduced bill has many of the same provisions, but would also:

  • Prohibit parents from moving more than 80 miles away from the other parent; and
  • Require judges to give substantial weight to a child’s custody preference, but only if the minor is 16 years of age or older.

Current law requires Michigan courts to make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child by assessing various aspects of a child’s life, including their physical, social, and mental health, as well as their education and safety. However, the courts are not required to consider each factor equally. Instead they are permitted to weigh the most relevant factors against each other. If passed, the new law would eliminate some of these factors completely.

Pros and Cons

Proponents of the bill argue that the mandatory joint custody requirement will ensure that judges treat all parents the same regardless of their gender or marital status. However, opponents argue that the law assumes that one form of custody is best for all families, which isn’t always the case. Furthermore, critics point to the fact that joint custody is sometimes unworkable for certain parents who may not be able to secure employment because of a shared parenting time schedule, while children may feel uprooted and confused if they were to be shuttled between two homes.

According to current law, the amount of child support that parties to a divorce are required to pay is partly determined by how many nights the child spends with the parent. However, if passed, the new law would bar parents from having more than 200 overnights with their children per year. This could end up reducing the support obligation for one parent, although he or she could then decide not to exercise equal parenting time. Finally, opponents argue that giving weight to a child’s preference will force children to choose between their parents, which could cause a rift in the child-parent relationship.

Call Today to Schedule a Free Consultation With an Experienced Family Law Attorney

The law is constantly changing, which can make it difficult for parents to get a firm grasp on their rights and responsibilities during a divorce. Having the advice of an attorney can help eliminate any confusion and accompanying stress, so if you are going through a divorce and have questions about whether joint custody is appropriate for your family, please contact Iafrate & Salassa at (586) 263-1600 to discuss your case with a dedicated and compassionate family law attorney. You can also reach a member of our legal team by sending us a short email requesting a consultation.

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