Potential Custody Changes Coming to Michigan

Typically, one of the most sensitive issues during a divorce involves children, both custody and support. We believe in helping all parents with forward-looking guidance to achieve what is best for the long-term wellbeing of children, even in the most complex of cases.

One story we will be tracking over the coming weeks involves proposed legislation that would significantly change child custody laws in Michigan. State Rep. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) recently announced his plan to formally introduce the bill. While the full language of the bill is not yet known, Runestad has shared some basic tenets from his proposal.

Presumed Joint Custody

The focal point of the bill would require judges to presume joint physical custody in divorce cases, as opposed to focusing on the Best Interests of the Children. Were the court to determine one parent unfit, or if both parents agree to a different arrangement, joint custody would be modified. The judge would be responsible for explaining the decision to not award substantial time with both parents; however, if an agreement between parents was not reached. Runestad shared that the goal of his legislation is, “to get something that is a clean, clear bill that will benefit as much of society as can possibly be done.” Reform advocates support shared custody legislation on the belief that shared parenting is in the best interest of children.

Opposing Views

Opponents to this type of legislation, which is currently being considered in approximately 25 states, argue that a “one size fits all” approach is risky legislation. Family law attorney Rebecca Shiemke said in an interview, “Equal custody does not work for families who are in conflict, who are unable to communicate about what’s best for their child or where domestic violence or abuse has been present.” Due to the varying nature of all divorce cases, child and family advocates maintain that custody rulings are best decided on a case-by-case basis to reach the best solution for all children.

Currently, Michigan law prescribes a judge to consider 12 factors regarding the best interest of children when deciding custody and parenting time when the parents do not agree. The House Judiciary Committee has recently heard testimony regarding shared parenting, and more presentations will be held this month. We will continue to share updates on this proposed legislation as pertinent news comes available. If you are interested in learning more about custody laws, contact us today!