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When Might a Parent Be Awarded Sole Custody?

Law Office of Blake P. Lipman June 10, 2024

Child holding hand of adult parent outside in summer parkChild custody matters can be tough and emotional for any parent. If you're seeking sole custody of your child(ren), it's important to understand the factors involved. Attorney Blake P. Lipman, an experienced litigator, offers insights on this crucial issue. 

Defining Sole Custody 

Sole custody refers to one parent having full legal and physical custody of a child. The parent having sole custody has the exclusive right to make major decisions about the child's life, including education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Also, the child primarily resides with the custodial parent. 

In Michigan, sole custody can be either sole physical custody, where the child lives with one parent and the other parent has visitation rights, or sole legal custody, where only one parent is authorized to make significant decisions about the child's welfare.  

Often, courts will consider the best interests of the child, considering factors such as the emotional ties between parent and child, the child's needs, and the stability of the home environment.  

You should note that even if one parent is granted sole custody, the non-custodial parent still has the right to request modifications if circumstances change. 

Other Types of Custody 

Legal custody involves the right to make significant decisions regarding the child's welfare. 

Physical custody pertains to where the child lives and who provides daily care. 

Joint custody refers to when both parents share legal and/or physical custody, requiring them to collaborate on major decisions and childcare. 

Split custody is when each parent has full physical custody of different children from the same family, effectively splitting the siblings between both parents. 

In cases of sole custody, the non-custodial parent may still have visitation rights, but the parents do not share decision-making responsibilities. 

Factors Considered for Sole Custody 

Courts prioritize the best interests of the child when determining custody arrangements. Several factors influence the decision to award sole custody, including: 

1. Parental Fitness 

The court assesses each parent's ability to provide a safe, stable, and nurturing environment. Indicators of parental fitness include: 

  • Mental and physical health: Evaluations of both physical and emotional well-being. 

  • Substance abuse: Any history of drug or alcohol abuse can severely impact custody decisions. 

  • Criminal record: A parent's criminal background, especially cases involving violence or abuse, is scrutinized. 

2. Child's Safety and Well-Being 

Ensuring the child's safety is paramount. The court looks into: 

  • Domestic violence: Evidence of domestic violence or abuse by one parent towards the other parent or child. 

  • Neglect or abuse: Instances of neglect or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. 

3. Child's Preference 

Depending on the child's age and maturity level, their preference may be considered. The court also evaluates whether the child's choice aligns with their best interests. 

4. Stability and Continuity 

Courts favor arrangements that provide stability in the child’s life. This includes: 

  • Stable home environment: The ability to maintain a stable and consistent living environment. 

  • School and community: The importance of keeping the child in the same school and community. 

5. Co-Parenting Ability 

The willingness and ability to co-parent effectively play a crucial role in custody decisions. Courts consider: 

  • Communication and cooperation: The ability of each parent to communicate and cooperate in raising the child. 

  • Hostile behavior: Actions that demonstrate an inability to collaborate constructively. 

Sole Custody Laws in Michigan 

In Michigan, the primary consideration in custody cases is the child's best interests. Michigan law outlines several factors to determine what arrangement serves the best interest of the child. Some Michigan-specific considerations include: 

Michigan Child Custody Act of 1970 

The Michigan Child Custody Act includes 12 key factors that judges evaluate to determine custody arrangements, such as: 

  • The love, affection, and emotional ties between the child and each parent. 

  • The moral fitness of the parties involved. 

  • The child’s current home, school, and community record. 

  • The capacity and disposition of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance. 

Change of Circumstances 

Under Michigan law, for a court to modify a custody order, there must be a significant change in circumstances that affects the child's well-being. This ensures any changes in custody serve the best interests of the child. 

Joint Custody Preference 

Michigan courts generally prefer joint custody arrangements unless there is clear evidence that sole custody is in the best interest of the child. Factors like abuse, neglect, or extreme hostility play a significant role in this decision. 

Seeking Sole Custody: Steps to Take 

If you believe that sole custody is in the best interest of your child, it’s essential to approach the process methodically: 

1. Gather Evidence 

Collect evidence that supports your case for sole custody. This may include: 

  • Documentation of abuse or neglect. 

  • Medical or psychological evaluations. 

  • Witness statements from friends, family, or professionals. 

2. Legal Representation 

Engage a knowledgeable and experienced attorney to work through the legalities.  

3. File a Petition 

Your attorney will assist you in filing a petition for sole custody. This legal document outlines the reasons you believe sole custody is necessary for your child's well-being. 

4. Court Proceedings 

Prepare for court hearings where evidence and testimonies will be presented. Regular communication with your attorney is crucial during this phase to stay informed and prepared. 

Consult a Child Custody Attorney in Farmington Hills, Michigan 

With over two decades of experience, Attorney Blake P. Lipman has a proven track record of helping families deal with the legal system successfully. His depth of knowledge and dedication ensures your case is handled with the utmost care. 

He makes himself available to update you on your case, answer your questions, and address your concerns promptly. 

Attorney Blake P. Lipman serves clients in Farmington Hills, Michigan, Detroit Metropolitan Area, and Tri-County Area: Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb. Call the Law Office of Blake P. Lipman now to schedule a free consultation.