Best Interest of the child questions to ask?

Every child custody or parenting time case requires an examination of what is in the Best interest of the child which are 12 factors defined in Michigan Compiled Law section 722.23. In this article, we will explore sample questions that can be asked relating to each Best Interest of the child factor.


Sample Best interest of the child questions you should consider asking.

Factor (a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.

It is hard to ask questions about “love” and “affection”, however, consider focusing on how and what questions in addressing this factor, such as:

    • How does your child show you [the other parent] love or affection?

    • Describe your [the other parent] relationship with your child?

    • How does your child know you [the other parent] love them?

    • What is your child’s favorite food?  TV Program, or books and / or stories?

    • How is your child dealing with the problems you and the other parent are having? What are you [the other parent] doing about it?

    • How do you [the other parent] hear about your child’s triumphs, adventures, etc.?

(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.

This factor overlaps some with factor (a), however, it is best to focus on “capacity” and “disposition” in forming questions such as:

    • What activitities is your child involved in? Who schedules the activities?

    • How do you discipline your child?

    • What are your [the other parent] positive and negative points on parenting?

    • What are the rules of your home?

    • What relgion are you? Do you go to (church, temple . . . )?

    • Who feeds the child?

    • Who bathes the child?

    • Who schedules doctor appointments?

    • How do you discipline the child?

    • Is there anything going on in your life that would impact your [the other parent] ability to give the child love or affection?

(c) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.

I typically do not give a lot of weight to this factor. Consider asking:

    • Where does the parent work? What are the hours? Salary, wage?

    • What doctors does the child see? Who takes the child to the doctor?

    • How do you [the other parent] manage money?

    • What does your child eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner)?

(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.

Stability is an important factor for any child. It is presumed that in many cases one or both parents will have to move. However, if a parent is moving every six months, this can be concerning to the court. Consider asking questions such as:

    • Where do you live? How long have you lived there?

    • Describe the home you [the other parent] live in? Inquire about the location (is it safe), clean, play areas etc.?

    • Where does the child sleep?

    • Do you have any plans on moving?

    • Where does the child currently live? D

    • Where has the child been since separation?

    • Does the child have friends in the area?

(e) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.

Once again, we see some overlap between factor (d) and factor (e). Consider asking questions such as:

    • How many times have you [the other parent] been married?

    • Do you have any plans to remarry?

    • How does the child feel about the family unit?

    • Describe the home you live in (or planning to live in)?

(f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.

Morality is often subjective. However, Courts are concerned with prior criminal activity, drug or alcohol abuse etc. Consider asking the following questions:

    • Do you feel you [the other parent are morally fit? Why? What does morally fit mean to you?

    • Do you [the other parent] have any criminal history?

    • How is your driving record?

    • Do you use alcohol or drugs?

    • Have you had an affair or romantic partner during your relationship that your children know about?

    • Do you ever use foul language around the children?

(g)  The mental and physical health of the parties involved.

Questions relating to health should focus on the impact a persons health would have on raising a child or exercising parenting time. Consider asking questions such as:

    • Do you [the other parent] have any physical or mental health history?

    • Are you [the other parent] currently taking any medication?

    • Are you [the other parent] in counseling?

    • Have you [the other parent] ever been hospitalized?

    • Do you [the other parent] have a health issue which may impact his/her ability to parent?

(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.

Consider the following questions:

    • What school does the child attend?

    • How is his/her grades, attendance etc?

    • Who takes the child to school?

    • Are there any special needs (IEP) etc. involving the child?

    • What are the teachers name? Who attends parent teacher conferences?

    • How are the child’s attitude about school?

    • Does the child participate in extracurricular activities?

(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.

It is important to understand that a child does not decide who they should live with. Parents do, or if they do not agree a court will decide. The preference of the child is a relevant factor when the child is old enough and mature enough. There is no magic age, as every child is different. Consider asking questions such as:

    • How old is your child?

    • Has you child expressed a preference on who he/she wants to live with or how often he/she visits the other parent?

    • What gives you that indication?

    • What is that 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. A court may not consider negatively for the purposes of this factor any reasonable action taken by a parent to protect a child or that parent from sexual assault or domestic violence by the child’s other parent.

This is probably the most important best interest factor. After all, if parents cannot get along, it can significantly impact a child’s development. Consider asking questions such as:

    • How do you and [the other parent] get along?

    • How do you feel you co-parent with [the other parent]? Why?

    • What steps do you [the other parent] take to foster and encourage a good relationship with each other?

    • Do you think it is ok to ask a child about things going on with the other parent?

    • How have things been going since your breakup in terms of sharing time with the child?

    • How has parenting time been working out?

(k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.

Once again, there is some overlap with this factor and the moral fitness factor. Domestic violence is always relevsant. More so, if the domestic violence is in the presence of the child.

    • Have you [your partner] ever been abusive to the other?

    • Are the any police reports or charges filed? Convictions or pleas bargains?

    • Was the child present?

(l) Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.

This is the catch all provision which will vary from case to case. Any question relevant to the issue is fair game.

While every case is unique, these Best Interest of the Child Questions should serve as a good foundation in formulating an examination in a child custody or parenting time case. We can help taylor questions specific to your case through quality representation. Let it be our privilege to help you manage your situation.

By: Daniel Findling (c) 2024.

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