I am Cameron Goulding, a divorce lawyer in Auburn Hills, Oakland County, Michigan, located close to the Chrysler Group, LLC Headquarters. In any case involving a custody dispute the court will have to make a determination as to what is in the child's best interests. As a lay person, one may not understand that the “child's best interests” is actually a legally defined term and not some broader examination as to what is generally actually in the child's best interest. Therefore, it is important for anyone facing a custody issue either before, during or after a divorce to know the actual legal definition.
The legal definition is really a list of factors which the court must review and then determine which factors favor which parent. The court must then decide how much weight to give each factor when making the ultimate determination regarding parenting time.
The factors are found in Michigan Compiled Laws 722.23, and are as follows:
(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.
(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.
As one can see, this is a long but not exhaustive list of factors which is why the legislature did include a “catch-all provision” that allows the divorce court to consider any other relevant factors. As always, I hope that this information can provide assistance and assurance to those facing such a difficult situation as a custody battle or parenting time dispute.