In Michigan there are 12 factors that the courts must use when deciding custody. These factors are known as the “best interest” factors of the child or children. Below are all the factors with a few sample questions that the Court might ask to help make a determination on the best interest factors. Each factor is important and must be considered by the Court, but the Court does not have to weigh them all equally. Based on the facts of your particular case, the Court might decide some of the factors are more important than others. Please review the factors and sample questions below:
Michigan Child Custody Act
MCL 722.23 sec. 3
1) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
- With whom does the child bond more?
- Who does the child approach with a problem?
- Who empathizes more with the child?
- Who spends more hours per day with child?
- Who prepares the child’s meals?
- Who bathes and/or puts the child to bed, and reads the child stories?
- Who has the ability to separate the child’s needs from one’s own?
- To whom does the child openly show signs of affection?
2) 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.
- Who stays home from work if the child is sick?
- Who takes responsibility for involvement in educational matters?
- Who is responsibility for involvement in extracurricular activities?
- Who disciplines the child, and how?
- Is there verbal abuse, and by whom?
- Does one parent enable extended family involvement more than the other with grandparents, uncle, aunts, and others?
- Who has involved or might involve the children in a religious creed
3) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, and medical care or other remedial care recognized under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.
- Who makes purchases for the child?
- Who attends to special needs of the child?
- Who has greater earning capacity?
- Who is able to adjust working hours based on the needs of the child?
- Who has better certainty of future income?
- Who can provide health insurance for the child?
- Who schedules and takes the child to medical appointments?
- Who arranges for childcare?
4) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- Who has provided up until the trial, and who can provide in the future, a stable, secure, and safe environment?
- Who can provide continuity?
5) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
- In whose custody will the family unit not be split?
6) The moral fitness of the parties involved.
- Have there been extra marital affairs known by the child?
- Has there been physical or verbal abuse, alcohol or other substance and drug abuse, poor driving records, physical or sexual abuse of the children, criminal records, or other illegal or offensive behaviors?
- The judge must assess whether or not any of these behaviors, including a parent living with another person, has had a negative effect on the child or a significant influence on that parent’s parenting skills.
7) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
- Does either party have a physical or mental health problem that significantly interferes with the ability to care for the child’s well being?
- Age of parents compared to age of child.
8) The home, school, and community record of the child.
- Who better encourages and influences attendance at school?
- Who is actively involved in school conferences and activities?
- Who can more adequately assure the child’s access to friends and peers?
- Who can more supervise the child’s home responsibilities?
- Who takes responsibility for completion of school assignments?
- Who can assist in reducing the necessity for other agency involvement (juvenile court, FIA or protective services)?
9) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
10) 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.
- Who can best cooperate with the parenting time schedule?
- Does either parent criticize the other parent in front of the child?
11) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
- Have there been incidents of violence in the home by any party against any party?
- If so, have there been police reports, arrests, or convictions?
- Has there been a pattern of domestic violence, including physical and non-physical abuse, reported or not?
12) Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.
- Who can most likely address the special needs of the child?
- Has either parent threatened to kidnap the child?
- Has either parent failed to exercise parenting time, or failed to return the child?
- Are there other children, whether a part of the impending litigation or not, whose custody is relevant to the child’s best interests?
- Are there significant others or new spouses whose relationship with the child affects the child’s best interest? The court will want to view the entire home
- Is there an issue regarding separating two or more of the children?
If you or someone you know is facing a custody or parenting time issue in West Michigan please contact Gordon & Hess, PLC immediately for a free ½ hour face to face confidential consultation. The attorneys at Gordon & Hess, PLC are experienced Divorce and Family Law attorneys and can help you understand the strength or weakness of your particular case and can develop a strategy for success. Contact Gordon & Hess, PLC at (616) 272-3331.