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The best interests of the child standard in child custody cases

Most of our Michigan residents have likely heard about the "best interests of the child" standard that is routinely used in family law cases, in media reports about celebrity divorce and the like. But, what exactly does the best interests of the child mean in child custody cases and how does the court apply it in family law cases?

First and foremost, it is important for our readers to understand that there is a statutory definition of what "best interests of the child" means. Under current MI law, this legal concept is defined as the total sum of several factors that should be taken into consideration and evaluated by the court when determining child custody.

There are 12 factors that a court takes into consideration. These factors include the emotional ties that exist between the parents or parties involved and the child, the ability of parties to give the child the needed love, affection, educational guidance and, if any, religious guidance, the ability of the parties to provide shelter, food and medical care, the amount of time the child has lived in a stable home, the permanence of the family home or unit, the moral fitness, mental and physical health of both parties, the school and community information concerning the child, the ability of parents or parties to encourage a positive relationship between the parent and the child, any domestic violence issues, any other factor which the court may feel is necessary to consider in reaching a decision on the child custody case and, finally, if the child is at the age where he or she is able to make their preferences known, then the reasonable preferences of the child.

"Best interests of the child" is not simply a term that is used by the court. Instead, it is the sum of many factors used by courts to make the right decision in a child custody dispute.

Source: Michigan Legislative Website, Michigan Compiled Laws, Child Custody Act of 1970, Section 722.23, "Best interests of the child," accessed Oct. 21, 2014

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