Best Interest Factors: Children in the Wake of Divorce

Supporting child

Child custody cases in the State of Michigan use “Best Interest Factors” to determine a child’s future in light of a divorce. The court looks at twelve factors to identify what they believe is in the best interest of the child at hand and where they would be most comfortable. The best interest factors can relate to custody, parenting time, and guardianship of minors. The Child’s Best Interest Factors are used to modify an existing child custody order. McCririe Law has worked in the family courts and on child custody cases for over 39 years. We understand your relationship with your child, its sensitivity, and the best decision for your child.

In accordance with Michigan’s Law (MCL 722.23), the court uses the factors below to evaluate your situation. :

1.) Love, affection, and emotional ties between the parties and the child. 

The above means that the court will evaluate who the child is bonded with, which parent spends time with the child, and mainly who the child primarily goes for comfort.

2) The capacity and the disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, guidance, and to continue educating and raising the child in the child’s religion, or creed if any.

Here, the factor evaluates what the parties can provide for their child’s growth and development. The court looks at past behavior in guiding the child’s spiritual and educational growth to indicate the future.

3) 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.

This factor evaluates who can provide for the child and give them the necessities they need, such as a home or clothes to wear. The court assesses which party can meet the child’s basic needs here.

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

The courts attempt to minimize a child getting “uprooted” from their environment and instead decide that keeps the child’s life as intact as possible. The court makes decisions with the child’s stability in mind. They eradicate other disruptions during such a difficult time for a child- such as a child staying in the marital home with a parent awarded custody.

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

The court will assess if the child will have a comfortable and safe environment while growing up. This assessment includes the physical aspect of the homes and the relationships with the individual inside them. The court looks for the safest outcome for the child – one that is not tumultuous.

6) The moral fitness of the parties involved.

The court looks at each party’s history to decide each’s moral fitness. Police records or history of substance abuse is evaluated to see if it interferes with a party’s ability to parent. Infidelity, however, is not assessed because it is only about a party’s ability to parent, not their behavior towards their previous spouse.

7) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.

This factor assesses the history of the parties’ mental and physical state. For example, a parent in and out of the mental hospital would be considered since the hospital visits may affect their ability to parent.

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

The court will look at the child’s school records and take into account things such as absences from school and disciplinary actions against the child. This factor also assesses behavioral issues in the home and any impact the parties’ divorce is currently having on the child. The court also considers if the child must move schools to live with a specific parent and its impact on the child.

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

This factor directly focuses on the child’s preference. If the child is old enough, as indicated by a judge, they may dictate the parent in which they’d like to live. The court assesses this in a confidential setting with the child so it does not negatively impact the relationship with the parent the child chooses not to live with.

10) 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.

The parties must continue to facilitate a relationship for the child with the opposing party. The higher amount of conflict in the parties’ divorce, the more weight this factor will have in assessing the child’s best interest. The court tries to avoid parental alienation or one parent standing in a child’s way, facilitating a positive relationship with the other party.

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

The court assesses if the child has been abused in any capacity by each party. Additionally, whether the children witnessed any type of abuse from one of the parties, the court also determines whether one parent is volatile, or unpredictable and the child can see this.

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

The above has to do with any unique circumstances in a custody case that the court can assess as a factor of the child’s wellbeing. These may include childcare or the parent’s biological relation to the child.

The best interest factors are the guideline the court abides by to assess the best option for the child. With a messy or tumultuous divorce involving your children, the last thing you want is to be misunderstood or even deceived by your ex! Children should not be used as chess pieces. To help your child’s wellbeing and circumstance, you must hire a well-versed Michigan family law attorney, such as McCririe Law.