Child Custody & the 12 Best Interest Factors

Child Custody & the 12 Best Interest Factors

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Before judges can issue a child custody order, they are required to assess whether the arrangement would be in the best interests of the child in question. In fact, this is the primary concern for family courts, who are charged with ensuring that children are placed in an environment that is conducive to their physical, emotional, and intellectual growth. Understanding how these factors are applied can be difficult, so if you are considering filing for divorce and have been unable to reach an agreement about how custody of your children will be shared, it is important to speak with an experienced child custody attorney who can ensure that your interests and the interests of your children are protected.

Michigan Child Custody Factors

Michigan law directs family law courts to make child custody decisions based on what would be in the best interests of the child, which is described as being the sum total of the following factors:

  • The emotional ties that exist between each parent and the child;
  • The parties’ ability to give the child affection, while also providing guidance and ensuring continuation of his or her education, and if applicable, religious instruction;
  • Each parent’s ability to provide the child with food, medical care, clothing, and other material needs, which also includes an analysis of whether the child has any learning disabilities, health issues, or physical challenges;
  • The length of time that the child has lived in a stable environment and the desirability of continuing that situation;
  • The permanence of the existing or proposed custodial homes;
  • The moral fitness of each parent, which includes an assessment of each parent’s criminal and unemployment records, as well as an investigation into any allegations of domestic violence or substance abuse;
  • The mental and physical health of the parties;
  • The child’s community, school, and home record;
  • Whether the child, if he or she is mature enough to have a legitimate and reasonable preference, expresses the desire to live primarily with one parent;
  • The parties’ willingness to facilitate a close parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • Whether there is a history of domestic violence in the family, regardless of whether it was directed at or witnessed by the child; and
  • Any other factors deemed relevant by the court.

When applying these factors to each specific case, courts will ask the parents in-depth questions about their parenting styles, the child’s home life, each parent’s work schedule, and who is the most involved in the child’s day-to-day raising. Production of supporting documentation will also be necessary to help lend credence to each party’s statements. Courts will also take into account the age of the child, and whether he or she is close with siblings, has strong ties to a particular school and other children in the neighborhood, or has a history of behavioral problems.

The answers to these questions may change over time as the parties’ circumstances also begin to change. In these cases, courts may be willing to modify the agreement to reflect those changes. If, for instance, one of the child’s parents moves out of state, the court may need to institute a new visitation schedule.

Call an Experienced Child Custody Attorney Today

Child custody can be one of the most emotionally trying aspects of divorce. At Iafrate & Salassa, we understand this and so do our best to relieve some of our clients’ burdens by aggressively representing their interests as well as the interests of their child in court. To speak with an experienced attorney about your own case, please call our legal team at (586) 263-1600 today.

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