My ex-girlfriend has had custody of my 5 year old daughter (although we have joint custody). I had joined the Army before I found out she was pregnant, and I served my four years and then went to school (during this time I lived in WA State), my ex and daughter, as well as all of my family live in Michigan. I pay $560.50 in child support and I am paying her health insurance as well. I have also realized that my ex does not provide her with clothes that fit her, nor baths daily. My ex has never had a job, and lives at her parent's house. I am wondering what I would need to do, or if it is even possible, to obtain custody of my daughter since I will now be moving to Michigan for a new job. I provide all financial and health care needs for her, and my ex does not. What are my options?
The first question is whether you have been legally determined to be the biological parent of the child by way of an Acknowledgement of Parentage or Affidavit of Paternity, or by way of a paternity action. If not, you will have to establish the paternity before you can do anything. If it has been determined that you are the biological parent, you should retain the services of an experienced family attorney to represent you.
The issue of custody is based on 12 factors known as the "best interest factors" in the Child Custody Act. The first thing to be established in order to go forward with the request for custody modification is that there has been a significant change in circumstances since she has been the custodial parent. If that cannot be established, the court will not, or should not, allow the matter to go forward. Since the mother has what is known as the established custodial environment, you will have to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the modification you seek is in the child's best interest, a difficult burden to meet. The mere fact that you pay support, she lives with her parents, and she hasn't had a job, in my opinion, is not really that relevant in your situation, as there are many children who live with a parent at the residence of the grandparents, and there are many custodial parents who may not have a job. That is why you need to see an attorney.
Neil M. Colman
Mr. Colman is licensed to practice law in Michigan. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Colman strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.
You should review the Michigan Child Custody Act ("MCL 722.23"), which can be found here: http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-722-23. That statute lays out the 12 "best interest" factors a Court will look at in determining whether a change of custody is warranted in your case. Properly litigating a change of custody case is easily one of the most difficult aspects of Family Law, so please ensure you retain a local-area Family Law expert to assist you. Warmest regards, Matt Catchick.