Parents often look at custody as an ownership right, but that is simply not what custody means. Custody is a determination of the time a child is going to spend with each parent and each parent’s responsibility to make decisions on a child’s behalf. When parents cannot come to an agreement regarding custody, a judge will have to make that determination instead. At the end of the day, all custody arrangements must be in the best interests of the child, which can be determined through the analysis of several factors.
Before we get into the best interest factors, an important determination must be made. The law dictates that custody arrangements for children remain stable. As a result, before a judge analyzes the above best interest factors, a judge will first determine whether an established custodial environment exists with one or both parents. In order to make this determination, a judge will look at whether a child looks to one or both parents for love, guidance, affection, food, housing, and other needs. If a court finds that an established custodial environment exists, it will take more evidence for a judge to change the current arrangement. There must be clear and convincing evidence that there has been a significant change in circumstances, as well as that the change is in the best interests of the child.
After that initial determination is made, the court will then examine the best interest factors. Per MCL § 722.23, these factors include the following:
(a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
(b) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and the continuation of the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.
(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.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
(f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
(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.
(k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed at or witnessed by the child.
(l) Any other factor considered by the court to be of relevance to a particular child custody dispute.
Please note that not every factor will be relevant to each custody case. The court will make a determination based upon the relevant best interest factors. Each relevant factor may weigh in favor of one or both parents.
While it is preferable for parents to come to their own custody arrangement, as parents are more likely to follow a custody arrangement that they agreed to, not all parents are able to do so. This is why Michigan law has put in place these factors to ensure that the best interests of children are always at the forefront of every child custody determination.
At Grewal Law PLLC, our team of attorneys is skilled in helping clients negotiate custody arrangements that work for all parties — without compromising the best interests of the children. Contact our Michigan firm online to get in touch with a compassionate legal adviser. We can also be reached by phone at (888) 211-5798.