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Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Presumption of Joint Custody

Recently, we came across an interesting editorial in the Detroit News that addresses how family courts approach the issue of custody in a divorce or family court proceeding. The editorial points-out that Wisconsin is one of only two states with a statutory presumption of joint custody.

Michigan's Child Custody Act does not contain this presumption; it does, however, have language stating that joint custody must be considered. For years, however, there has been legislation proposed that would adopt a true joint custody presumption.

The organized family law bar [the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan] has long-opposed the statutory presumption of joint custody. The argument is mostly based on the theory that custody must be decided on a case-by-case basis, and that frequent cases of domestic violence and abuse make the operation of the joint custody presumption too risky.

While the organized family law bar's opposition has never let the above-referenced House Bill 4141 see the light of day, there is always some opposition to the opposition.  But there is no "trend" or rush to a joint custody presumption.

In Wisconsin, the family courts are now bound to follow the "shared parenting" model; in Michigan, it is known as "co-parenting". As we always advise our clients, the custody label [joint, sole, legal, physical] is less important than the court-ordered parenting schedule and, whenever possible, maintaining communication between two parents that are willing to make parenting compromises that are in the best interests of the minor children.

It is true, however, that in some cases, the co-parenting model is simply not possible. Any divorce lawyer worth her salt can tick-off half a dozen recent cases where one parent or both refused to cooperate with any form of co-parenting, adopting a scorched-earth policy instead.

When this happens, the children pay the price; usually for the rest of their lives. So regardless of whether a state has a joint custody presumption, in all cases, without exception, it is the
p-a-r-e-n-t-s that have to get it together.

If you have a parenting or custody issue, contact us for a free consultation to discuss your options.

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