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Michigan Family Law Blog

Monday, August 10, 2020

How Does Being the Working Parent Affect My Custody Rights?

From time-to-time the Michigan Court of Appeals will issue an opinion that reflects how the court or case law have evolved over time to reflect changes in society.  Where the norm was once a married couple where the husband worked and the wife stayed home to care for the children, society has evolved so that now in many cases both parents work outside of the home.  The recently decided divorce and custody case of Bridget Bofysil v Sarah Bofysil, Published Michigan Court of Appeals Docket No. 351004 (April 23, 2020) was such a case.

The court (in its own words) stated the issue as follows.  For one parent to stay home to raise the children, the other must go out into the world and generate an income to support the family. Does working outside the home compromise a parent’s ability to forge and maintain a strong, healthy relationship with her children? What if both parents work outside the home? Is the child essentially without a parent truly committed to parenting and all that the job entails?

 How Does Being the "Career" or "Working" Parent Affect My Custody Case in a Michigan Divorce?

In the past, the court gave a very heavy preference to the stay-at-home parent when considering custody and granting parenting time.  Traditionally, the mother would be granted physical custody and the father would have parenting time on the weekends and maybe a meal during the week.  Over time, this has transformed to a model where the courts are more likely to divide the time in a more closely equal manner and marriage is no longer limited to parties of the opposite sex.  The Bofysil case is reflective of this legal trend.

In that case, the divorce court found that Sarah and Bridget's child had an established custodial environment only with Sarah because she was the stay at home mom while the parties were together and the child was with her the majority of the time.  The appellate court found that it was error for the trial court to do this and reversed that decision.  It stated that It was a serious error to discount the role of Bridget simply because Bridget worked outside the home to support her family. This error influenced the applicable burden of proof and permeated the court’s assessment of the child’s best interests.

This is very good news for the working parent.  This was a published court of appeals case and in Michigan that means it is the law of the land unless it is overturned by the Michigan Supreme Court, which is unlikely.  Now courts in Michigan cannot take into account whether one parent was the stay-at-home parent or spent more time with the child simply because the other parent was working to support the family when deciding the issue of an established custodial environment when deciding custody cases.  This is big deal and should have the effective result of taking the stay-at-home status out of the equation when determining custody of children in Michigan.

Michigan Divorce Lawyers are Here to Help

Custody and parenting time are often the most difficult issues to navigate when dealing with divorce or separation.  Even when parents generally agree about how to handle these issues, often they need help with the details and finer points.  A well-crafted parenting time and custody agreement is often an essential road map to success for a divorcing couple with children.  No matter what your circumstances are, if you or your spouse are considering filing for divorce you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.  Contact our North Oakland County Michigan divorce lawyer today to speak with an attorney who will guide you through this challenging time.


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