You learn some big words in law school. Take for example the law school phrase, res ipsa loquitur, which is a legal principle that an occurrence of an accident implies negligence or escheat, which involves the forfeiture of property. While the phrase best interest of a child seems simple enough, applying the concept of what is in your child’s best interest is legally complicated.
What is in your child’s best interest is legally defined in Michigan Compiled Laws (“MCL”), section 722.23. However, in the context of a Michigan divorce, custody case, parenting time case or a case involving choice of school, the application of the legal definition varies with type of case.
A Michigan child custody case, is decided by applying the best interest factors set forth in MCL 722.23. However, a Michigan parenting time case, is decided by applying the best interest factors in addition to specifically enumerated factors in MCL 722.27a. A choice of school case is decided by applying only the relevant best interest factors only. The Michigan Supreme Court deciding in a seminal choice of school case that the court: “. . . must consider the applicability of all the [best interest of the child] factors. However, if the trial court determines that a particular factor is irrelevant to the immediate issue, it need not make substantive factual findings concerning the factor beyond this determination, but need merely state that conclusion on the record.” See: Pierron v. Pierron.
The Michigan legislature, in MCL 722.23 has defined best interest of a child as the sum total of the following factors (which may be different to what you think!):
- The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
- 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.
- 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.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
- The moral fitness of the parties involved.
- The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
- 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.
- Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
- Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.
While there is no requirement that a court weigh each of the best interest of the child factors equally, the court must evaluate every factor. For example, in a particular case, the home, school and community record of the child may be so important to a specific case, that the court gives lip service to the remaining factors.
So what is really in your child’s best interest? To legally answer the question, we look to Michigan Compiled Laws section 722.23 and the lawyers at Findling Law to help you apply the facts to your situation.
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I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades. The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles. We are compassionate, creative and always prepared. We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.
By: Daniel Findling
Michigan Child Custody, Child Support and Parenting Time (Visitation) video
Choice of School – Changing school in a Michigan divorce or custody case.