Answer: A change in custody is a very complicated process. There are two steps necessary for the Court to consider a change in custody. First, the parent seeking the change must show “proper cause or change in circumstances”. As I am sure you can tell, this is a very subjective standard. The Courts have attempted to define this term by outlining things that may or may not be considered “proper cause or change in circumstances.” We know that things like domestic violence, abuse, neglect and criminal activity would likely be considered sufficient to meet this first threshold. We also know that things like the preference of the child to live with one parent or the other or normal life changes like going from middle school to high school generally do not meet the threshold. Everything else in the middle is subjective and is highly dependent on the facts of the particular case. If a parent gets by that first threshold then the Court conducts an evidentiary hearing to determine if the proposed change is in the best interests of the minor children by reviewing the “best interest factors” as outlined in the relevant statute. I know this sounds complicated and difficult. That is because it is. Judges and lawyers struggle with trying to properly apply these standards every day. This is not something you should try to do or defend on your own. You need a competent and experienced family law attorney to assist you. Call me and I can help you understand what your options are and what result you should expect.
Michael Olson is a partner with the law firm of Matecun, Thomas & Olson, PLC in Howell. He answers readers’ questions on legal matters affecting individuals, their families and their businesses. Email questions to [email protected], or, if your question is urgent, call (517) 548-7400. The information in this column is not intended as legal advice.