The Importance of Joint Legal Custody

The Importance of Joint Legal Custody

Recently, after a friendly game of pick-up basketball at a local gym, a friend came up to me with a serious look on his face. I thought it might have had something to do with the fact that I may have taken a shot too many during the game we had just played and lost. I thought for sure he was going to call me a “chucka,” the name given to players who are notorious for shooting the ball too much.

My friend—I will refer to him as Barkley—asked me if I knew anything about Family Law and if he could ask me a question. Relieved he wasn’t calling me a chucka, I said, “shoot” (something I did not let him do during the game).

Barkley explained that his ex-girlfriend and he have a 5-year-old son together, but have been separated since the child was 6 months old. At the time of their separation, the Court entered an order regarding custody that deemed that his ex was to have “temporary sole legal and sole physical custody” of their son. Up until about two months ago, he and his ex got along fine as much as exes can. Barkley had his son every weekend for the last four years and made his child support payment accordingly. Barkley and his ex have had issues for the last month since she mentioned she might be taking their son to move to Anchorage, Alaska. His ex had been offered this great job there, and was on the verge of being laid off in Michigan. Apparently, his ex is from Anchorage and has a sister and brother who also live there.

I explained that Michigan laws require her to petition the Court to change the state of the domicile of their son. Unfortunately, I explained, under Michigan Statute (MCL 722.31), because he did not have joint legal custody, it was going to be a very low threshold for her to get the court’s permission to move out of the state. I explained that the Court still needed to consider the best interests of the child, but that his ex would make a pretty convincing argument if she can show that she is losing her job here and is gaining a better and more secure job in Alaska, and also that she has family there. Barkley was quite upset at, as he described it, “a ridiculous law that could strip my son away from me.” I explained that when the Court grants such long distance moves it tries to make up the parenting time during the summer months. I did not assuage his concerns.

Fortunately for my friend, his ex found a job in Michigan and is staying put, giving my friend time to petition the Court for joint legal custody.

The lesson here is simple: Joint legal custody is very important, for lots of reasons. Do not wait until it is too late. Give me a call to help you gain the custody rights you deserve.


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