Factors for Determining Child Custody
Under Michigan law, child custody determinations require the court to assess what custody arrangement serves the child’s best interests. Under Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL) § 722.25, courts must consider several factors when determining the best interests of a minor child when deciding issues of child custody.
The statutory factors for determining child custody include:
- “The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
- 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.
- 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.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
- The moral fitness of the parties involved.
- The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
- 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.
- Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
- Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.”
Reasons for Modifying a Child Custody Arrangement
Whether the court decides child custody after a trial or the parties agree, the judge will issue an order reflecting that arrangement as in a final divorce or custody decree. Custody orders remain in effect until the children reach 18 unless a new order is entered in the meantime. If circumstances change from what they were when custody was initially determined, a parent can file a motion to modify the terms of the original custody order. However, Michigan law contains a threshold which must be met before even considering a change of custody. Because this threshold must be proven to even get your foot in the door it is essential that a motion be properly drafted and supported with evidence.
Under MCL § 722.27, a court can “modify or amend its previous judgments or orders for proper cause shown or because of a change of circumstances until the child reaches 18 years of age” as long as such a modification serves the best interests of the child. However, Michigan law strongly favors maintaining the child’s current custodial environment.
As a result, courts must make the following considerations when deciding whether to modify a child custody request:
- Whether “proper cause” or a “change of circumstances” justify modifying the order
- Whether maintaining the current custodial environment serves the child’s best interests
The statute for modifying custody does not define the terms “proper cause” or “change in circumstances.” However, Michigan courts have interpreted those terms in child custody cases over the years. According to the courts, the term “proper cause” refers to grounds that could have a significant impact on the child’s life. Furthermore, to demonstrate “changed circumstances,” the requesting party must provide proof that the conditions relevant to child custody that could significantly affect their well-being have materially changed.
New developments since entry of the last custody order including the following could cause a court to modify child custody:
- A parent moving a significant distance from where he or she lived at the time of the original order
- The child having problems in school such as poor attendance, failing grades or behavioral issues
- The child having physical or emotional issues tied to the current custody arrangement
- The custodial parent having significant physical or mental health issues impacting the care of the child, including substance abuse
- Domestic violence in the custodial home
- Involvement of Child Protective Services
To Learn More, Consult the American Divorce Association for Men (ADAM)
Changing custody is one of the most complex issues in family law and it is essential to obtain expert legal advice prior to taking legal action. Failure to present a solid case for modifying custody will not only stop you in your tracks now but could also set you back if you want to change custody in the future. You should speak with an experienced attorney from the American Divorce Association for Men. Our legal team is here to protect your legal rights and interests as a husband and father.
Call ADAM at or contact us online for an initial consultation today.