The established custodial environment.
Under Michigan child custody law, the established custodial environment is the parent a child naturally looks to for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort. The law defining the established custodial environment is Michigan Compiled Laws, section 722.27.
Why is the established custodial environment so important?
The established custodial environment is important in Michigan custody cases because a court cannot issue a new child custody order, modify or amend a previous child custody judgment or order that would change the established custodial environment of a child unless there is clear and convincing evidence that it is in the best interest of the child.
The different burden’s of proof.
Burden of proof is an obligation to prove your claims with evidence. Michigan divorce and custody courts apply different burdens of proof depending on the circumstances. Different burden’s of proof require more or less evidence to support a claim. For an established custodial environment court’s use the preponderance of the evidence burden of proof and the clear and convincing evidence burden of proof. Preponderance of the evidence requires less evidence to prove a claim than clear and convincing evidence.
- Clear and convincing evidence: requires evidence that the claim is very highly probable and;
- Preponderance of the evidence requires evidence that the claim is more likely than not.
An established custodial environment can be with one parent, both parents or neither parent.
- One parent established custodial environment. If there is an established custodial environment with one parent (the child looks for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort from one parent), the legislature does not want to disrupt or change the custody arrangement unless there is clear and convincing evidence.
- Two parent established custodial environment. If there is an established custodial environment with both parents (the child looks for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort from both parents), the legislature does not want to disrupt or change the custody arrangement unless there is clear and convincing evidence.
- No established custodial environment. If there is no established custodial environment, the legislature makes it easier to change the custody arrangement by using a preponderance of the evidence burden of proof.
Other Factors in the established custodial environment
The established custodial environment statute also provides that the age of the child, the physical environment and the permanency of the relationship with the parent shall also be considered in determining if an established custodial environment exists.
The child’s standpoint defines the established custodial environment.
It is important to understand that the established custodial environment is determined from the child’s standpoint. This was made clear in the Michigan Supreme Court case of Pierron v. Pierron, 486 Mich 81 (2010) provides that it is the child’s standpoint, rather than that of the parents, that is controlling in determining the established custodial environment.
Understanding the established custodial environment and the different burden’s of proof is important in preparing for any Michigan child custody case. Whether the case is a new case or a modification of an existing child custody arrangement.
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By: Daniel Findling