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Michigan Family Law Blog

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Importance of Civility in Divorce Cases

Parties to a divorce should attempt to at least be civil to one another in order to get through the process without causing unnecessary litigation and costs.  When the parties to a divorce have children, it is imperative that the parties to treat each other decently even when they disagree for the sake of the children and because the failure to do so may result in a loss of custody or parenting time.

There are two forms of custody in Michigan, legal custody and physical custody.  Physical custody is the classic notion of which parent has the most time with the child or with whom the child lives.  Legal custody involves the parent's right to make decisions about the child's life, such as medical care, religious upbringing and school related issues.  Most of the time parents are granted joint legal custody, which seems fair.  However, if the parties are not able to treat one another civilly when there is a disagreement and figure a way to work the issues out, then the court may order that only one party has sole legal custody and that parent has the rights to make all the major decisions that will effect the child's life without input from the other parent.  In fact, one of the specific factors that a judge must consider when determining whether continued joint custody is in the best interests of the child is the willingness and ability of each of the parties to foster and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent. 

In a recent Michigan custody case, the court noted that the Defendant refused to cooperate with the plaintiff on recommendations from the child's physician, canceled a referral to an ENT specialist, declined to take the child to a dermatologist and resisted taking the child to an optometrist.  The mother also complained that the father took the child to see a therapist without her input, then she took the child to see a therapist without the father's input.  The court found based on this evidence that the mother would unreasonably substitute her opinion over the opinion of the medical professionals and override the father's attempts to follow their directives.   Finally, the court heard evidence that the mother insulted, demeaned and berated the father on numerous occasions as well as questioned his intelligence and mocked his physical disfigurement.  The mother denied doing so in front of the child, however, the father submitted a voicemail message where the child's voice was audible in the background.   The court found that these actions were detrimental to the child, that the mother could not co-parent with the father and granted sole legal custody to the father.

This is a case where one parent made it clear that she could not facilitate or foster a relationship with the other parent, rather she attempted all she could to ruin that relationship.  In these cases, the judge will hold a hearing, consider the evidence and grant one parent sole legal custody.  If you are facing a situation where the other parent has engaged in some of these type of behaviors, then it is wise to consider consulting a family law attorney to discuss whether seeking sole legal custody is an option.


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