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March 10, 2020

In Michigan and Oakland County, child custody can be with either the mother, father or joint custody.  There is both legal and physical custody, as a practical matter, however, legal custody is the only type of custody recognized in the law in Michigan.

Legal custody involves who makes decisions for the children, with regards to matters involving schooling, religion, domicile, medical determinations and other life decisions.  As a general rule in Michigan, joint legal custody is the norm, however, if there is a reason that sole legal custody should be awarded, such as either of the parents having compromise backgrounds or other problems, such as abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism, or other problems, sole legal custody might be awarded and/or agreed upon.

Specific factors that are looked at by the Court when determining whether sole legal custody should be awarded, include the following:

  1. Whether the parents will be able to cooperate and generally agree concerning the important decisions of effecting the welfare of the child.
  2. If the parents agree on joint custody, the court will award joint custody, unless the Court determines on the record, based on clear and convincing evidence that joint custody is not in the best interest of the minor child.
  3. If the Court awards joint custody, the court may include in its award, a statement where the child shall reside with each parent or may provide that physical custody be shared by the parents in a manner to assure that the child continuing contact with both parents for during the time the child resides with a parent, the parent shall decide all routine matters concerning the child.
  4. If there is any dispute regarding residency, the court shall state the basis for the residency award on the record or in writing.
  5. That joint custody shall not eliminate the responsibility for child support, each parent shall responsible for support based on the needs of the child and the actual resources of each parent. Joint custody also means that the child should reside alternately for specific periods with each of the parents and that the parents shall share decision making authority as to the important decisions effecting the welfare of the child.

Merrill Gordon is an Oakland County attorney with more than 35 years’ experience in divorce and family court proceedings along with all manners of civil actions. He is also a court-appointed mediator in Oakland and Wayne counties and has received an AV peer review rating, the highest available.

He is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Thomas Cooley Law School.  He was admitted to State Bar of Michigan and all Michigan State and Federal Courts in 1981, and the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1985. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, Oakland Country Bar Association, American Bar Association and the Mediation Tribunal Association.

For a free initial consultation, contact Merrill Gordon at (248) 626-3000 or via email at

Merrill Gordon—Oakland County and Southeast Michigan’s Family Law Attorney

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Merrill Gordon is accessible to clients at his Farmington Hills office and is also available via phone or email to discuss your case any time of day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He also provides a free initial consultation and flexible payment options.