Now that you and your ex-husband have parted ways, you need to determine what is going to happen with your children. In Michigan, there are two different forms of child custody that you need to know about -- physical and legal.
Each of these forms of custody has to do with a different aspect of your child's life. Together, they provide a comprehensive plan that you can use to guide your custody and visitation of your child.
Physical custody refers to which parent has the child the majority of the time. Typically, one parent has the child the most of the time and the other parent will have the child less often. The parent who has the child most of the time is the one who has primary physical custody. The parent who has the child less has rights to parenting time with the child. This is an aspect of child custody that is negotiable, so the time the parent has varies according to the child custody order.
In some cases, parents might opt to co-parent the children. This means that both parents would have the child just as much. While the time division might not be exactly even, it is a much better balance of time than traditional custody arrangements. This type of custody does take work since you and your ex-husband will spend a lot of time working together.
Legal custody refers to the ability of the parents to make decisions about the child's life. In most cases, you will share legal custody of the child equally. This includes making decisions about the medical care and education the child receives. It also includes other important decisions like what faith the child will practice. If you and your ex-husband share these decisions, you will have to learn to cooperate.
The alternative to shared decision making is for you and your ex to each be in charge in specific areas of the child's life. You might find this arrangement preferable if you and your ex-husband would rather not have to deal with each other on a regular basis. Of course, the trade off is that you will have to live with the decisions that your ex makes regarding the child's life.
There are some instances in which you and your ex might be able to work out the child custody arrangement with each other through mediation. Without this occurring, you will end up having to let the court issue an order and you must abide by that order.