As if we didn’t hear enough about celebrity family issues this week. Kelsey Grammer has filed legal papers in court seeking sole physical custody of his two children: 9 year old daughter Mason, and 6 year old son Jade. The kids actually live in L.A. with their mother, Camille Grammer, while Kelsey lives in Chicago with his new wife, Kayte Walsh. In the divorce, Camille Grammer was granted physical custody of the children, but Kelsey Grammer apparently wants to change that and move them to Chicago: Kelsey Grammer Trying to Rip Custody from Camille.
What does it take to win a custody battle, and move two children from their home in LA to Chicago? In Michigan, this is no small feat. First, the Court must determine that there has actually been a change in circumstances or that there is good cause in order to change a custody arrangement. If the Court determines that there has been a change in circumstances or good cause, then the Court must determine that the proposed custody arrangement is in the best interests of the children. This means that the Court must listen testimony and review evidence surrounding 12 best interest factors, listed in MCL 722.23. In the case where the proposed custody change would essentially transfer the children physically from one parent to the other, the Court must find that the proposed change is in the best interests of the children by “clear and convincing evidence.”
Additionally, in Michigan, if you not only want to change custody, but then want to move the children out of state, the Court must consider other issues. In what is called the D’Onofrio test, the Court must find that the relocation is in the best interest of the children by a preponderance of the evidence after consideration of the following factors:
- Will the change improve the quality of life for the child and parent
- The degree to which each parent has complied with their parenting time schedule
- The degree to which the court can modify parenting time to preserve & foster the relationship
- The extent to which the opposing parent is motivated by financial reasons
- Domestic violence, regardless of whether it involves the child
Obviously, a cross-country custody battle is not as easy as just filing legal papers asserting what you want. The process is extremely involved and requires substantial evidence that the proposed custody change will be best for the children. This case provides good reminder that the Courts are there to determine what’s best for the kids—not just what the parents want.