Family law and practice is unique in that it is not defined by any set of bright lines rules, but rather is factor-driven, which means aspects of the law are matters of interpretation and falls to your family law attorney to properly advocate on your behalf. This is nowhere more true than when it comes to the role of a court (or Friend of the Court—see precious blog post) to determine custody and parenting time.
MCL 722.23 of the Michigan legislature states and explains what factors a court is required analyze on behalf of both parties before deciding on matters of custody and parenting time, commonly referred to as the “best interest factors”:
As used in this act, "best interests of the child" means the sum total of the following factors to be considered, evaluated, and determined by the court:
(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 to continue 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. A court may not consider negatively for the purposes of this factor any reasonable action taken by a parent to protect a child or that parent from sexual assault or domestic violence by the child's other parent.
(k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
(l) Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.
The list above is long, and it was intended to be. Nothing is more crucial in the life of a child by a close and continuing relationship between both of his or her parents, if both parents are capable and wanting of such a relationship. A judge or referee is compelled by law to use the above favors to make such a determination. And it’s also important to know that a custody or parenting time order does not have to remain in effect unchanged forever; rather, the court shall consider changes to custody or parenting time with any relevant “change in circumstance” in the life of either the parents or the child.
Having an experienced family law attorney by your side in the midst of a custody battle can ease your burden and fears. Call the Law Offices of Joumana Kayrouz to schedule your free consultation today!