Nothing seems ever to be set in stone in a divorce, given all the variables are simultaneously in motion. So, when there is a petition to change the existing custody order filed by one or both parents, it’s bound to be far from simple.
Before Michigan courts can modify or amend a previous child custody judgment, they must first consider the child’s established custodial environment. While this phrase is a bit of a complicated mouthful, it essentially means the parental environment that the child looks to for guidance, comfort, discipline and all of life’s necessities.
In determining the established custodial environment, the state’s courts also look at the child’s age, the physical environment and inclination of both parent and child to have a permanent relationship. All these factors must come from the child’s perspective, and not that of parents.
Thus, anything that disrupts the custody arrangement status quo must come with a considerable amount of proof.
Burden of proof
The type of proof needed to build your claim depends on whether one, both or neither parent serves as the child’s established custodial environment.
- Clear and convincing evidence: If the claim is highly probable and with one or two existing parents as established custodial environment
- A preponderance of the evidence: If the claim is more likely than not and without an existing established custodial environment
In some instances, the role of the established custodial environment is too significant that legal teams even request a temporary custody order first, so that the challenging parent can have the chance to make an optimal parental environment. Then, the courts look at best interest factors, which include an extensive list evaluating the parent’s overall fitness or capacity to parent, to address the accuracy of the claim.
Change is scary, but inevitable. At some point, your family may experience substantial changes in circumstances, which include substance abuse or routine absence and neglect. These changes impact several divorce factors that may overwhelm you. It will help to seek a legal team who can work with you on strategic solutions protecting your family’s rights, interests and future.