If there are children involved in a divorce proceeding, Family Courts will often turn to what are called the Michigan Best Interest of the Child Factors. These factors are used especially when issues regarding child custody are involved. Applying these factors, listed below, allows the court to make factual findings regarding where and with whom the child(ren) of the marriage should spend their time. Keep in mind, however, that as situations change, the courts may be required to revisit these Best Interest Factors to assess current situations. Should you have any questions or concerns about these or other issues concerning either these factors or child custody matters, feel free to contact one of our Lansing divorce lawyers to schedule a consultation.
The Michigan Best Interest of the Child Factors
The Best Interest Factors of the Child, considered by the Family Courts in Michigan, 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 case or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other marital 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.
Any parent involved in a custody dispute should make themselves very familiar with these factors, and should be prepared to voice their reasons under each factor for their desired custody arrangement.
The Court’s Application of the Best Interests of the Child Factors
Any child custody dispute in the state of Michigan, whether it be a dispute over legal custody, physical custody, or both, is determined by the Court through an evaluation using the Best Interest of the Child factors set forth in MCL 722.23. The law requires the Court to consider each and every one of these factors, and to place onto the official record of proceeding its finding regarding each factor, when making child custody determinations.
It should be noted that the statute does not require the Courts to consider each factor equally, but rather only requires the Court to take each factor into account. Some factors will be more relevant, and thus carry greater weight, depending on the facts and circumstances involved in the particular case. The Courts are granted the discretion to weigh each of the factors as they see fit in making their determination of custody.