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In a divorce where the couple has children together, issues relating to how the children will be raised and where they will live are often some of the most difficult and emotional decisions that parents will ever be asked to make. These cases can be complex, and understanding the factors the court will consider in awarding custody is important, leading many divorcing spouses to seek the assistance of a skilled attorney. At Iafrate & Salassa, P.C., our Royal Oak child custody lawyers have helped many parents navigate the divorce process, and we may be able to help you as well.
Because children and their needs can change over time, child custody issues can remain or resurface long after a divorce has been finalized, and sometimes require a modification to the original divorce agreement. This can be caused by any number of issues, such as one parent relocating for a job, or because the child graduates from high school and moves on to college, for example.
Suppose you live with your child following your divorce and your ex-spouse, who is the child’s other parent, receives regular parenting time with the child. The arrangement appears to work for several years until one day your child comes home from a visit with their other parent and makes an unsettling announcement: they feel “old enough” to make their own decisions and have decided to live with the other parent. Perhaps your child has made this informed and rational choice on their own, or maybe they are simply responding to pressure from the other parent, but the question still remains: Does your child have a say with which parent they want to live?
Any decision that a Michigan court enters in your divorce or child custody case regarding your child must be based on what the court believes to be in the best interest of your child. In determining what is in your child’s best interest, the court may consider the desires and wishes of your child, including any preference as to placement. There is no law in Michigan that gives your minor child the right to decide where he or she wishes to live – no matter the age or the maturity of the child. That being said, however, a child who is older and who is able to articulate a reasonable and rational reason for wanting to live with one parent or the other will typically have their preference given serious consideration.
When deciding how much consideration to give to your child’s preferences, the court will likely consider:
So, for example, a child who wants to live with the noncustodial parent simply because they dislike how the custodial parent disciplines them is not likely to have their decision given much weight. However, if the primary custodial parent is moving away from the area in which the child has grown up and is going to school and the child wishes to remain with the noncustodial parent instead, a court may be much more inclined to consider the child’s request.
The example above is just one of the many trying scenarios that families face during a divorce. Iafrate & Salassa, P.C. understands how important these decisions are to you and your children, and we can help you protect your child’s best interests. Contact our offices today by phone or complete our online contact form to request a free initial consultation.