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What factors will a court use to resolve child custody disputes?

When parents turn to the court to resolve child custody and/or parenting time disputes, it is important to understand the factors that a judge will examine.

Under the Michigan Child Custody Act, there are 12 enumerated factors that inform the best interest of the child standard. These factors examine the multifaceted needs of a child and each parent’s ability to meet those needs.

For example, a court will inquire about the existing emotional ties between a parent and child. The court will also hear testimony or other evidence about each parent’s ability to meet a child’s emotional, physical and educational needs. Some consideration may be given to the desirability of maintaining the child’s current, stable environment. The court may want to know the child’s own preferences regarding various custody and time sharing proposals, to the extent the child is old enough to testify or offer an opinion.

When hearing evidence in support of these child custody factors, each parent will have an opportunity to explain their custody and parenting time proposal. Each party may also call witnesses to explain a proposed arrangement, such as other family members, teachers, or even expert witnesses, such as a child psychologist. The judge may also ask questions of each party or witness. School records and medical reports, although relevant, are not automatically admissible unless the parties mutually agree to their admissibility, or they are admitted pursuant to the Michigan Rules of Evidence.

Although the law endeavors to be objective, there is some discretion involved in the weight afforded to each factor or to the testimony of each witness. However, the court will generally consider and make a decision about each of the 12 factors. Our family law firm has helped many clients advocate for favorable child custody and parenting time arrangements.

Source: “The "Best Interests of the Child" Factors,” copyright 2017, Michigan Legal Help

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