COMMENTARY: Child custody factors, part duex

By Marie E. Matyjaszek

Hopefully now that Halloween is well past us, you've chosen to substitute Tommy's candy and pop addiction for fruit and milk. You may think that a court doesn't care about you or your child's eating habits, but the physical health of the parties is one of the many factors that a court can consider when awarding custody in a divorce or a custody battle between unmarried parents.

Here's a quick review of our examination of the "Best interests of the child" factors codified in MCL 722.23--the first three factors focused on the emotional attachment between the child and his parents, the ability of the parties to guide and properly raise the child, and if they can provide day to day necessities and care. The next factor is subsection (d), "The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity." This factor looks to the past and how often the minor child has been with each parent, who has lived in the respective homes (do significant others move in and out as regularly as Lindsay Lohan violates probation?), is the home clean and safe, does Tommy have his own room and appropriate items, etc.

Factor (e) is "The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes." Are mom and dad frequent flyers with U-Haul, moving from place to place due to eviction or relationship breakups, or have they stayed put for quite some time, with no move being anticipated in the future? Children need a stable routine and a stable residence to come home to each day. Try to keep your moves to a minimum (unless you're on "Dancing With The Stars," but that's a whole different set of moves).

"The moral fitness of the parties involved" is another item up for custody consideration. Does either party have a criminal record longer than the receipts on the television show "Extreme Couponing?" Even if there is no actual conviction for a crime, is it well known that he or she likes to engage in a little weekend activity that stretches the definition of "recreational?" The court wants to ensure that the children are raised by parents that attempt to instill good morals and ethics, not those who constantly end up on the wrong side of the law.

The next factor is definitely where I get the most humorous answers from clients when we review the statute for court--"The mental and physical health of the parties involved." It's my understanding that almost everyone thinks their ex is crazy, but there are cases where one of the parties suffers from serious mental and emotional issues that he or she may or may not be receiving treatment for. The courts will often order psychiatric evaluations, require counseling, and ensure that the individual is complying with treatment plans, including medication.

The remaining five factors are up for discussion in my January article. Don't miss it (or Tommy's next dental check-up either--I'm sure there's more than one cavity building thanks to the candy.)

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Marie Matyjaszek is an associate attorney at the Law Office of Robert Matyjaszek PLLC, Jackson, Michigan. Her blogsite is: http://legalbling.blogspot.com/. She can be reached at (517) 787-0351 or by emailing her at matyjasz@hotmail.com.

Published: Fri, Dec 16, 2011

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