Michigan Child Custody Trends: 1990 to 2015

Please call, 734.927.9782, the custody and parenting time attorneys at Stelmock Law Firm, PC to discuss your matter today.

Michigan Child custody is a term that refers to rights and responsibilities for each parent and child. Custody is a determination of the time a child is going to be with each parent and each parent’s responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the child. Michigan child custody can be modified to accommodate significant changes in the lives of the children or the parents involved. The judge attempts to structure custody to promote a strong relationship between children and their parents. The only time this is not true is when the judge determines that custody with an individual would endanger the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health.


There is no legal definition for sole custody.   Michigan sole custody occurs when primary physical custody and legal custody are given to one parent.

Physical custody is when a parent provides most of the day to day care for the child.

Legal custody is when a parent has the responsibility of making all major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing (such as medical treatment, school enrollment, religious instruction, and participation in extracurricular activities).

If the judge believes the parents cannot work together for the benefit of their child, sole custody is usually awarded to one parent.

The other parent may be given parenting time, as determined by the court. If parenting time is ordered, the non-custodial parent is responsible for making routine and emergency decisions for the child during parenting time.


At the request of either parent, the court must consider ordering joint custody. If the parents agree on joint custody, the court must order it unless the court determines that joint custody is not in the best interests of the child.

It might be argued that awarding joint custody could encourage divorce, by making divorce “easier.” On the other hand, widespread acceptance of joint physical custody might be expected to reduce the divorce rate, because joint custody makes it difficult for an angry parent to hurt the other by taking away the children, or to relocate and thereby eliminate interaction with the other parent.

In addition, an economic argument has been advanced that elevated levels of child support associated with sole custody may encourage divorce, because custody of children represents an asset for the custodial parent to the extent that child support payments exceed the cost of raising a child (Muhtaseb, 1995).

The following contains a chart on the percentage of Michigan Child Custody awards from 1990 to 2015.

Year                Wife                Husband          Joint                Third-Party

1990                74%                 12%                 13%                1%

2000                66%                 11%                 22%               2%

2010                54%                 8%                  36%                 2%

2015                45%                 8%                   44%                3%

When reviewing the chart, throughout the years an award of joint physical custody has increased.  I would suspect that more recent data would suggest that an award of Joint Physical Custody are higher today than the 44% in 2015.

Your specific situation may be somewhat different from the norm; please call, 734.927.9782, the Canton Michigan Divorce Lawyers and Canton Michigan Custody Attorneys at Stelmock Law Firm, PC to discuss your matter.  We represent clients in the Metro Detroit area (Canton, Plymouth, Northville, Livonia, Westland, Ann Arbor, Novi) and throughout Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland, and Livingston counties. The firm’s office is located at 8556 N. Canton Center Road, Canton, Michigan 48187

By: Robert J. Stelmock, Attorney, GAL, Parenting Coordinator & Mediator at Stelmock Law Firm, PC