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Bill to establish presumption of joint custody in MI officially introduced in Legislature

In our last post, we began looking at plans to propose a change to Michigan custody law in favor of a presumption of joint custody. As we’ve pointed out, Michigan currently only presumes that it is in the best interests of children to have a strong, ongoing relationship with both parents after divorce. 

The bill, which was introduced earlier this month, would require judges to presume that joint custody is best for the children. This presumption could be overcome if there were evidence showing otherwise, but the burden would be upon the parent or party opposing joint custody to show that joint custody is not best for the children. 

A party opposing the presumption of joint custody must present “clear and convincing” evidence that joint custody is not an appropriate arrangement. The ordinary civil standard is preponderance of the evidence, and clear and convincing evidence is a heightened standard in child custody cases.

The bill specifically mentions certain exceptions to the joint custody presumption, including cases where the parents mutually agree to an alternative arrangement, or where there is a history of domestic violence, or where there are other factors showing that the child’s health, safety or well-being is “materially compromised.”

Judges are, under the bill, also allowed to grant conditional joint custody to parents who are not likely to cooperate or agree about important decisions affecting the child. Cooperation, of course, is a critical element of an effective joint custody agreement, without which joint custody is not a workable arrangement.

Parents should, of course, always work with an experienced attorney in the child custody process, both in cases where parties are willing to cooperate, and especially in contentious cases. An experienced attorney will help ensure that a parent’s rights are protected and that the court has all the information necessary to make the best possible decision for the child. 

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Bill to establish presumption of joint custody in MI officially introduced in Legislature | Peter A D'Angelo, Attorney at Law, PLC