Written by attorney Shelley A. Kester

What are the Best Interest of the Child Factors

MCL 722.23 “Best interests of the child" defined.

“Best interests of the child" means the sum total of the following factors to be considered, evaluated, and determined by the court:

(a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.

(b) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.

(c) 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.

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

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

(f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.

(g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.

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

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

(j) 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.

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

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

To establish custody of a minor child, the Court must consider each of the statutory best interest factors listed above, and make specific finds on the record.

Best interests of the child means an evaluation of the sum total of the above factors to be considered, evaluated and determined by the Court with respect to each parent.

If a Court has determined it can revisit a prior custody order, due to a change of circumstances or proper cause shown by a party asking for the change, or if there is no prior custody order, it will next determine the applicable burden of proof (based upon who has the established custodial environment with the minor child). A Court will then consider the evidence in the record (testimony, exhibits) as it relates to each of the "best interest of the child" factors in relation to each parent and the impact on the minor child, in order to determine what custody and parenting time arrangement "is in the best interests of the child."

Preparation begins with an analysis of the current status as well as a historical analysis back to the last custody order as to each child custody factor. The most important step is, of course, to identify and move for the admission of all admissible evidence which provides facts favoring a party under each factor which backs up that analysis.

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