What we’ve always known instinctively has also been borne out in studies: divorce is tough on kids. It’s even harder when mom and dad are fighting over issues that directly involve therm, such as custody and visitation. A child caught in a custody or visitation fight can even come to believe, however inaccurately, that he is the cause of his parents’ breakup.
Whenever possible, the lawyers at Lucido & Manzella will work with you and your spouse’s attorney to reach an acceptable out-of-court agreement (though it must usually still be approved by the court) concerning these difficult and emotional issues. However, we also know that, for any number of reasons, this sometimes just isn’t possible. In that case, we will do our very best to see that you are granted to most favorable custody and visitation rights possible.
How Is Custody Decided?
Michigan courts are required to consider as series of factors in order to determine what custodial situation is in the child’s “best interests”. These include practical considerations such as the parent’s ability to provide a safe home environment, as well as less tangible ones such as the strength of the child’s emotional bonds with each parent and the parent’s ability to provide emotional support and guidance. Each parent’s emotional stability and physical health will also be considered.
Recognizing that most children do better when raised by both parents, the court will usually also look favorably upon a prospective custodial parent’s willingness to encourage the child to continue his or her relationship with the non-custodial parent. Finally, if the court finds the child is old enough and has a preference, that preference can also be taken into account.
This is not a simple “scorecard” exercise, however. Guided by the “best interests” principle, a court must look at these factors as a whole, but need not give them equal weight. Indeed, the court may find that a single positive or negative factor (for example, a parent’s history of drug abuse or violence) is so important that it outweighs that parent’s many positive traits.
Modification of Custody Orders
Although custody orders are never “set in stone”, the law does favor stability in the lives of children. As such, the court will not usually consider a request for a change in custody unless the parent seeking it can show that there has been a significant “change of circumstances”. The family law experts at Lucido & Manzella P.C. understand the factors that judges consider when evaluating a modification request, and we can give you an honest and fair assessment of your chances of success.