Joint Legal Custody

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Custody Attorney

Michigan statutes do not define joint legal custody.  The Courts will grant joint legal custody if the parents will be able to cooperate and generally agree concerning important decisions affecting the welfare of the child.  The important decisions affecting the welfare of the child usually refer to those decisions related to medical, educational and religious upbringing. Lombardo v. Lombardo, 202 Mich App 155 (1993).  Even if there is joint legal custody, the parent has the right to decide all routine matters concerning the child when that child is residing with the parent.  MCL 722.26a.

If that parents cannot agree regarding an important medical, educational or religious issue, a party may not act unilaterally but must file a Motion to seek Court approval. The Court must consider the Best Interest of the Child Factors relevant to the particular dispute when making rulings related to joint legal custody.

For a good idea as to how such issues are dealt with, consider:

“When resolving important decisions that affect the welfare of the child, the court must first consider whether the proposed change would modify the established custodial environment. The established custodial environment is the environment in which “over an appreciable time the child naturally looks to the custodian in that environment for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort.” MCL 722.27(1)(c). While an important decision affecting the welfare of the child may well require adjustments in the parenting time schedules, this does not necessarily mean that the established custodial environment will have been modified. Brown v. Loveman, 260 Mich App. 576 (2004). If the required parenting time adjustments will not change whom the child naturally looks to for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort, then the established custodial environment will not have changed. See id. The court may not “`change the established custodial environment of a child unless there is presented clear and convincing evidence that it is in the best interest of the child.'” Id. at 585, quoting MCL 722.27(1)(c).

Here, the trial court found that the proposed change of schools would modify the established custodial environment because the 60-mile distance between the proposed schools and plaintiff’s home “would … impinge on the father’s ability to provide educational guidance, discipline, and the necessities of life.”  Pierron vs. Pierron, 486 Mich 81 (2010).

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