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Plymouth Family Law Blog

A review of physical child custody in Michigan

Like most others states throughout the country, Michigan has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Act. This gives some standardization to child custody processes and determinations throughout the nation, but as with all legal matters it is important that individuals seek their own legal advice when matters of law affect their lives. This post offers no legal advice and should only be read as an introduction to the topic of physical custody for children.

Physical custody is an important part of child custody. It concerns where a child will physically live and which of their parents will have physical custodial power over them. If a child is placed in the custody of one parent, that parent has the right to make day-to-day decisions about how the child is raised. Physical custody can be given to one parent in a sole custody arrangement or may be granted to both parents who then just share in the physical custodial duties of raising their child.

How to cut costs during divorce

When you split from your spouse, you will, of course, have to work through several issues relating to asset division, and, if applicable, child custody and support. Navigating these matters can prove expensive, but know that you have at least some degree of control over how much your divorce ultimately costs.

According to Forbes, the typical American divorce will likely run you somewhere between $5,000 and $50,000. While geography and similar issues typically come into play in determining final divorce costs, there are some things you can do to limit how much money you have to spend to finalize your split. Just what are some of the ways you can save big during your divorce?

What is a no-fault divorce?

Marriages end for many reasons. While some Michigan couples may stay with their partners until the ends of their lives, others may elect to terminate their marital relationships through the divorce. When two people go through and complete a divorce, they are no longer legally bound to each other though they may share in post-marital responsibilities, such as the custody and support of their kids.

Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, which means that individuals do not have to show that their spouses did something wrong to bring about the ends of their marriages. In some jurisdictions in the past, individuals had to show that their spouses had engaged in adultery, had committed crimes, or had undertaken other wrongful acts in order to be allowed to end their relationships.

How do DNA tests determine paternity?

When a child is born to unmarried parents in Michigan who are no longer in a relationship with one another, if the father wishes to pursue custody or visitation rights or if the mother wishes to pursue child support from the father, paternity needs to be established. Sometimes, parents will agree the man is the child's biological father and will voluntarily agree so in writing by executing a specific form, which will subsequently become legally binding.

However, sometimes either the mother or the alleged father is not certain if the man is the child's biological parent. When this happens, paternity can be established through a DNA test. A child has half of his or her DNA from the biological mother and half of his or her DNA from the biological father. Each person's DNA is different, except in cases of identical twins. If the DNA patterns between the child, the child's mother and the alleged father match, it is 99.9% likely that the man is the child's biological father.

Mediation can be a non-adversarial way to get divorced

Television and the movies may make it seem like all divorces are contentious affairs fought out in a courtroom. However, many couples in Plymouth wishing to end their marriage are finding that there are other, non-adversarial ways to divorce. For example, sometimes a divorce settlement can be reached through mediation.

Through mediation, the spouses work together with a neutral third-party mediator to negotiate their divorce issues. The mediator is not a decision-maker. Rather, the mediator facilitates discussions between the spouses, helping the spouses themselves come to an agreement they are both satisfied with.

How does spousal support differ from child support?

When a couple in Plymouth decides to end their marriage, money will be a concern for both parties. Specifically, parties will want to know if they will pay or receive spousal support -- also known as spousal maintenance or alimony -- and if they have children, whether and how much they will be ordered to pay in child support. It is important to understand the difference between spousal support and child support, as they are meant to accomplish very different goals.

Spousal support is an amount of money one spouse pays the other party post-divorce. These payments usually last for a specific period or until the receiving party remarries. It is meant to help the receiving party keep up the lifestyle they had while married or to help them meet their financial needs until they can become financially self-supporting. To that end, it is paid for the benefit of the spouse receiving it. However, there is no guarantee that spousal support will be granted -- a party must request it. There generally is not a statutory formula for determining how much spousal support will be owed. It is based on a variety of factors found in that couple's specific situation.

What to do during divorce if your spouse is the higher earner

Divorce can be expensive. Paying for attorney's fees and court costs on top of potentially losing your home could be scary - especially if you are not the higher-earning spouse.

If fear of how you will pay for a divorce keeps you with your spouse, review your options. How to pay for divorce should not be a deal breaker. In Michigan, you may be able to finalize your divorce without paying too much out of pocket.

Options for the family home when it comes to property division

Home is where the heart is, but when hearts are broken, and a married couple decides to divorce, the decision of what to do with the family home can be one of the most contentious issues. This is because the family home may be one of a couple's most valuable assets and it may have a lot of sentimental value as well.

It is important to understand what your options are when it comes to the family home and property division in a divorce.

What is the process for a paternity case in Michigan?

Sometimes, when a child in Michigan is born to unmarried parents, both parents will agree to sign an Affidavit of Parentage form. Doing so establishes paternity, meaning that the child's mother can subsequently seek child support from the child's father, and the child's father can seek parenting time with the child if he wishes. However, sometimes a parent does not wish to sign this form. If this is the case, then a parent can file a paternity case to establish parentage of the child.

If a person is pursuing a paternity case, first a complaint needs to be filed with the court. The other parent will be served with notice of the hearing. Blood tests will be taken from the parents and child. Finally, a hearing will be held. The purported father can, at any time, claim to be the child's biological parent, and if so the court can establish a paternity order. However, if the purported father disagrees with the results of the blood test then a trial will take place in which the court will either establish an order of paternity or, if appropriate, dismiss the claim.

Parallel parenting may be a workable child custody option

Parents in Plymouth going through a divorce may want to make sure their child gets through the process in a healthy matter and continues to thrive post-divorce. If parents are on amicable terms, they could try co-parenting as a means of child custody. Through co-parenting, parents will generally keep the same rules and routines in both of their households and will often attend special events, such as holidays and other celebrations together with their child.

However, not all divorcing parents are on such amicable terms. Resentment and anger can linger long after the divorce decree is signed. However, despite these negative feelings, parents still may want to share custody. If co-parenting isn't a feasible option, parents may want to try another way to share custody: parallel parenting.

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