When splitting from a spouse, many questions arise that may seem impossible to understand. For spouses who have children in common, the most significant issue to them may come down to child custody.

Too many times, people believe that custody and the time a child spends with a parent are the same. These two essential elements that a court may decide during divorce proceedings mean two different things. It is beneficial to understand these differences before proceeding.

Custody

When people hear the terms custody and divorce, it may elicit visions of stories depicting parents locked in a battle over who gets the kids. While elements of this conflict may manifest during divorce proceedings, the courts seem to have come down on the side of sharing it equally between the parents.

When deciding custody, Michigan courts recognize that both parents have equal rights to make legal decisions for their children. Thus, custody is a legal issue – not a physical one. Unless there is evidence of abuse or neglect by one parent, many courts err on the side of giving each parent 50/50 physical custody of their children.

Parenting time

The physical time parents spend with the children is parenting time. This is where some parents find a strong disagreement. There is typically a parent who has the majority of time for purposes of designating the schools the children attend. Even with this designation, it does not mean the other parent faces much less time. Parents should work together to come up with a realistic parenting time schedule. In doing so, they should consider the following:

  • Which parent has done a majority of the hands-on parenting
  • The individual work schedules of the parents
  • The extracurricular requirements on the children

It does not benefit children or parents to overextend themselves. It may lead to frequent schedule changes and a reshuffling of priorities that can negatively impact the kids.

It is in the children’s best interest for parents to work together and come to a solid custody and parenting time schedule rather than letting a court decide.