You have split from your partner and filed for child custody, either as part of a divorce or as its own action. How can you tell if your children will live with you or your former spouse? How do Michigan courts decide who gets child custody?
Michigan Courts Decide Child Custody Based on the Child’s Best Interests
Under Michigan law, the guiding light in every custody battle is supposed to be the child’s best interests. Even though the parents are usually the only ones who show up to court, the child’s needs are the star of the show.
But how does a judge know what is best for a child he or she has never met? Here are some of the questions judges may want answers to for each of the 12 Best Interest Factors:
(a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
How strong is the emotional bond between each child and each parent? Do they talk often, or play together? Does the child miss the parent when he or she is away?
(b) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.
Who is more likely to discipline the child, or respond to school emergencies? Who takes the child to church or temple? Which parent (or parents) make time for their children?
(c) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.
Who provides for the children? Who buys them groceries or school clothes? Whose income provides for those things? Who takes the children to the doctor or makes decisions about their health and care?
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
Where was the child living before the parties separated? Who has the child been staying with since then? Is the current home safe, stable, and suitable for the child? What is happening in the home that is causing the child stress?
(e) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
Does either parent have a new live-in partner? How long have those relationships lasted? Is the housing situation stable or could the family have to move again soon?
(f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.
Has either parent made moral decisions that negatively affect their ability to be a parent? Have they used drugs or alcohol while caring for the child? Have their moral decisions exposed the child to risks? This factor only applies to parents’ role as parents.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
Does either parent have an undiagnosed or untreated mental health problem? Do physical disabilities interfere with a parent’s ability to care for their child? This factor only applies to parents’ role as parents.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
How are the children doing at school? Do they have friends? Are they acting out at school or at home?
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
How old are the children? Which home do they prefer and why? Does it seem like a parent coached the child to say what they said during the in-camera interview?
(j) The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.
How well do the parents work together for parenting exchanges? Does either parent talk badly about the other in front of the children? Does a history of domestic violence justify one parent protecting the children from the other?
(k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
Is there a history of physical, mental, or emotional abuse toward the children or the other parent? Did the children witness this? Is the behavior likely to extend to the children in the future?
( l ) Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.
Does a child have special education needs? Does a parent’s work schedule make overnight visitation difficult? Are there problems with others in either parent’s family or household that affect the children?
No two child custody cases are the same. That means how Michigan courts decide who gets child custody will be slightly different for every family. But the child’s needs and the 12 Best Interest Factors will be the center of every custody case. To win custody, you and your family law attorney will need to develop a case that puts your children first, even above your own preferences.
The Cronin Law Firm has experienced attorneys to aid with whatever legal issue you’re facing. If you need a custody order for your children, contact The Cronin Law Firm today to schedule a consultation.