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How do you change custody in Michigan?

Updated: Sep 25, 2020

Before you examine custody changes, it’s important to understand the difference between changing “custody” and changing “parenting time”. These two categories have very different legal criteria. While a change in custody requires “proper cause or a change in circumstances”, changing parenting time may have a lower standard. This article will discuss changing custody, to read about changing parenting time, please click here.

It’s important to understand that there are essentially two types of “custody” for minor children. The first one is Physical Custody and the second one is Legal Custody. We will discuss Physical custody here, click here to see more on Legal Custody. When any custody order is put into place, that Custody Order is meant to be permanent, which means the barriers to changing that custody order are very high and difficult. It’s important to make sure you have an attorney helping you when you have your first custody order entered, otherwise, it may be very difficult to change it later.

Physical custody means where the child is located. It can also encompass an “established custodial environment”, also known as an “ECE”. It’s important to determine whether an ECE exists with one parent. A Judge will examine whether a child has been with a specific parent for a significant period of time during which that parent has provided care, comfort, discipline, love guidance, security, stability, the necessities of life and permanence.

In order to change an Established Custodial Environment with one parent, the Court has to examine whether there has been proper cause or a change in circumstances to warrant reviewing the current custodial arrangement. This must be significant and something that has happened SINCE the last Court Order was entered. It cannot involve something that happened prior to the last Court Order. It also must be something that is not a normal change in a child’s life, such as a child starting school. A child starting school is anticipated and contemplated.

Such significant changes could include:

  • A parent being absent from the home

  • A parent abusing alcohol or drugs

  • A parent abusing or neglecting a child

  • A child missing school regularly while in care of a parent

Such changes do NOT include a child wanting to live with another parent, normal life changes or a loss of income to one parent where such an income change can be managed with a modification to child support.

If a change in custody will result in a change to an Established Custodial Environment, the legal standard that must be proven is "clear and convincing evidence". This is a higher standard of proof than simply changing parenting time and can be difficult.

If you’re looking to change custody or parenting time, Attorney Allison Greenlee Korr handles cases in Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and all surrounding counties, call today for a consultation. 269-381-4471


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