By Chris Kramer
Disputes over child custody in Michigan would be made a whole lot less complicated and children would be better able to cope with divorce, according to one state legislator, if his proposal granting joint custody were to become law.
State Representative Glenn Steil Jr. recently proposed a Michigan child custody law that would grant joint custody to both parents in most types of custody disputes. Specifically, House Bill 4564 would mandate that state courts grant joint custody unless:
This proposed Michigan child custody law would also require children to live with both parents for substantially equal amounts of time. Steil's Michigan child custody act would give both parents equal say in the most important decisions regarding their child's or children's best interests.
Steil was quoted in a South Bend Tribune story as saying that current Michigan child custody laws are outdated and based on the wrong assumption that granting sole custody is in the best interests of the child. Steil added that current state child custody laws do not promote the idea of maintaining relationships with both parents following a Michigan divorce.
Steil's legislative aide, Rebecca Climes, detailed in the story how current Michigan child custody decisions are made. Climes said that judges make the final determinations in Michigan child custody disputes by considering 12 factors, which include the child's school record, the mental and physical well-being of both parents, and their ability to provide a stable and loving family environment.
Climes added in the story how current Michigan child custody laws do not mandate joint custody and that these specific decisions are rather agreed upon by the parents.
The South Bend Tribune story detailed comments from Climes about how Steil and his children benefited from a joint custody agreement between him and his wife during their Michigan divorce. With that said, the story also stated that the Family Law section of the State Bar of Michigan and some domestic violence groups have criticized this proposed Michigan child custody law.
Specifically, some domestic groups have grown concerned about the possible ramifications of such a Michigan child custody law, especially when considering past histories of domestic abuse and violence. These groups wonder whether prior victims would be susceptible to even more violence from their ex-spouse when dropping off or picking up their children during their joint custody.
With this legislation relating to custody in Michigan in mind, the Wolverine State joins Minnesota as a fellow Midwest state to recently consider joint custody proposals. State Senator Tom Neuville recently introduced SF1606, a proposed Minnesota child custody law that would require judges to assume joint physical custody at the start of all cases. While joint physical custody may not have to necessarily granted in Minnesota child custody cases, this assumption would at least have to be made at the beginning of divorce cases including custody debates. Read more about this proposed Minnesota child custody law here.