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Grand Rapids Child Custody Attorney

For parents with minor children, addressing custody and visitation issues can be among the most emotionally challenging aspects of ending a relationship or marriage. From the day your children were born, you have spent your life raising them; and, now, all of a sudden, you are being forced to agree to spend time apart.

In all custody matters, Michigan law requires decisions to be made in the children’s best interests. But, while you may hold steadfast beliefs about what is best for your children, there is a strong chance that your spouse has different views about parenting time. Then, the court may need to evaluate your different approaches. Whether you and your spouse are able to come to terms or you need to ask a judge to establish the terms of custody and visitation that will apply after you receive a final order, it is ultimately up to the courts to determine whether a parenting plan serves the best interests of the children involved. Having an experienced Grand Rapids child custody attorney can help you navigate this process.

Experienced Representation for All Child Custody Matters in West Michigan

When we represent divorcing or separating parents in child custody matters, we work closely with them to develop custody and visitation plans that meet their needs, serve their children’s best interests and satisfy the requirements for judicial approval. With decades of experience in child custody matters, we know what the judges in West Michigan look for and how to negotiate strategically during the divorce process to secure the parenting rights our clients desire. We are also aggressive litigators who are passionate about fighting to protect our clients’ relationships with their children; and, if the other parent will not agree to an appropriate parenting plan, we will help you fight to get the best results possible.

In addition to representing clients during the divorce process, we also have extensive experience representing parents in post-divorce and post-separation enforcement proceedings and requests to modify child support orders. If your former spouse or partner is interfering with your custody or visitation rights, or if you need to see about having your parenting rights modified, we can help you understand the options you have available.

Establishing Custody During a Divorce: Michigan’s “Best Interests” Factors

Under Michigan law, determining what is in a child’s “best interests” with regard to custody and visitation after a divorce involves applying a set of legal factors to the circumstances at hand. Section 722.23 of the Michigan Compiled Laws requires an evaluation of the “sum total” of these factors, although certain factors may weigh more heavily than others depending upon the particular facts involved.

Michigan’s “best interests” factors are:

  • The “love, affection, and other emotional ties” that exist between the parents and their children
  • Each parent’s “capacity and disposition” to provide their children with love, affection, and guidance
  • Each parent’s “capacity and disposition” to provide their children with food, clothing and medical care and meet their children’s other material needs
  • Each parent’s moral fitness
  • Each parent’s mental and physical health
  • Each parent’s “willingness and ability” to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The length of time the children have lived in a stable environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity
  • The “permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes”
  • The children’s home, school and community records
  • Each child’s “reasonable preference,” if the child is old enough to express such a preference
  • Any history of domestic violence targeting any child or the other spouse

In cases where parents go to court for a determination regarding custody and visitation, the law also calls for the judge to evaluate, “[a]ny other factor considered . . . to be relevant to [the] particular child custody dispute.” A Grand Rapids child custody attorney can help you assess which factors may be evaluated under your particular circumstances.

Steps to Improve Your Chances of Securing Your Desired Custody or Visitation Rights

Michigan law does not inherently favor either parent. As a result, there are steps that both parents can – and should – take in order to improve their chances of securing their desired custody or visitation rights. While every family’s circumstances are unique, some of the types of steps we often recommend include:

  • Document your parental involvement. The more concrete examples you have of the various ways you play a role in your children’s lives on a day-to-day basis, the better.
  • Focus on stability. The courts like to keep children in stable living environments. Should you fight to keep the family home as part of your asset division? If you plan to move, can you stay in your children’s school district?
  • Get (more) involved. If you have not taken every opportunity to participate in your children’s lives (i.e. by attending games or recitals), now is the time to change this. A couple of months won’t necessarily make up for years of limited involvement; but, if you have time to plan ahead for your divorce, this can be an important factor.
  • Anticipate your spouse’s strategy. What custody or visitation rights will your spouse want, and what will he or she say in order to get them? Anticipating your spouse’s strategy is just as important as having a strategy of your own.
  • Maintain civility. As you go through your divorce, you will need to remain civil. Acting out of anger or hostility will give your spouse a leg up in any custody-related court proceedings.
  • Be prepared. Contact an attorney as soon as possible.  Preferably before the need to file a petition arises so that we can together prepare a strong case.

Child Custody Enforcement and Modification

Both parents must abide by the court’s orders. If your former spouse or partner is refusing to allow you to see your children, there are clear remedies available under Michigan law. Of course, this also means that if you violated the court order (even if you had a good reason), you will benefit from being represented by an attorney to minimize the consequences. Learn more:

Contact a Grand Rapids Child Custody Attorney Today 

To speak with a Grand Rapids child custody attorney at our family law offices, please call 616-285-0808 or contact us online. We can help you make informed decisions and can take legal action immediately if necessary to protect your relationship with your children.