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"Best Interest of the child" Factors Explained:

When evaluating child custody, the “Best Interest of the Child” is the overarching standard used in determining with whom custody will be granted.  The courts will evaluate the 12 factors under MCL 722.33 "Best Interest of The Child" as defined in Child Custody Act of 1970.
At the friend of the court conciliation conference, parents should be prepared to explain rational for the custody arrangement proposed.  The referee or judge will review and compare all factors associated with "Best Interest of the Child" and any additional factors.  Each factor is not granted equivalent weight. The courts and judge will look at different factors and weigh them accordingly, depending on the facts of each individual case.  Simply because you have more of an advantage in the number of factors that are in your favor, does not guarantee a win for your case. The courts are also known for considered factors with great weight above others, such as proof of abuse. 
Here are the 12 Factors of “Best Interest of the Child” as well as brief explanations of each factor:

Factor (a). existing love, affection and emotional ties

The love, affection and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
  • Emotional ties existing between the children and their parents, such as, love, compassion, and potential for emotional stability.
  •  Whom does the child overall look to for the compassion and love that they need?
  • How does the child relate with each parent?
  • If there is a problem, which parent will the child seek?
  • Can the parents distinguish the child’s need from their own needs?
  • How much time is spent with the child each day?
  • Who provides the child’s meals?
  • Which parent bathes the child, reads to the child, or puts the child to sleep

Factor (b). providing the child with love, affection and guidence

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 own religion or creed, if any: 
  • Which parent has the best ability and disposition to provide the child with love, affection and guidance throughout their life?
  • Which parent is best situated to assist in the child’s future education and raising of that child within its current religion or creed?
  • Which parent takes care of the child when they are sick, even if it involves staying home from work.
  • Which parent assists the child with their homework and school issues?
  • Who is in charge of disciplining the child and what method do they use?
  • What language does each parent use when interacting with the child?
  • How often does each parent involve extended family in the child’s life?
  • Does the child attend church or other religious service, and if so, which parent takes the child?

factor (c). Providing food, clothing and medical care

The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, and medical care or other remedial care recognized under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs:
  • The ability of either party to supply the child with food, clothes, healthcare, and a safe residence.
  • The courts may also consider other needs of the child depending on status of the child
  • Which parent buys the food, clothing, and toys for the child?
  • Does one parent provide for the child’s special needs?
  • What are the circumstances with each parent’s job such as stability, flexibility, and insurance?
  • Which parent takes the child to the doctor and makes appointments?
  • Which parent provides for childcare?
  • Is there a disparity in income and if so, can child support make income more equal?
  • If there is already a child support order, is that parent up to date on payments?

Factor (d). the length of time the child has lived in a stable enviroment

The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity: 
  • How long has the child lived in the current situation and is the current living arrangement working?
  • Which parent is best able to provide a stable, safe, and secure home environment for the child?
  • Which parent can provide more stability?
  • If a parent has moved, how has the child adjusted to the move?

Factor (e). the permanence, as a family unit

The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes:
  • Courts will look deeply into each parents individual family unit and support structure of the proposed custodial home
  • Who is in each parent’s family unit?
  • Is the parent dating or in a serious relationship?
  • How is the family unit changing?
  • Will the child live with siblings or half-siblings?
  • How stable is the home environment?

factor (f). moral fitness

The moral fitness of the parties involved:
  • This factor assesses the moral and ethical behavior of each parent; in particular, what was the child exposed to?
  • Was one parent involved in an extra-marital affair that the child had knowledge of?
  • Was there any physical or verbal abuse?
  • Did either of the parents abuse drugs or alcohol?
  • What are the driving records like of each parent?  Has either parent been charged with drunk or reckless driving?
  • Was there any physical of sexual abuse of the child, if so by whom, and what was each parent's role?
  • To what extent has the child been affected by these negative behaviors?
  • What corrective action has each parent taken?

factor (g). mental and physical health

The mental and physical health of the parties involved:
  • Dose either parent suffer from a problem either physical or mental that significantly interferes with their ability to care for the child?
  • If so, what treatment is that parent seeking?
  • Has that parent shown treatment to be beneficial to their ability to care for the child?

factor (h). home, school and community

The home, school, and community record of the child:
  • How is the child performing at home and school?
  • Dose the child attend school regularly and what role do the parents play in convincing the child to attend?
  • Which parent attends school conferences and other school activities such as sporting events?
  • Does each parent encourage the child to make friends and facilitate visits with friends?
  • Does the child perform chores and which parent supervises the child to ensure the chores are completed?
  • Which parent assist with the child’s homework?

factor (i). the reasonable preference of the child

The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express a preference:
  • Age is not the only consideration as to whether a child’s preference is to be considered.  The facilitator or judge will decide whether or not the child is mature enough to state a preference and how much weight to grant that opinion.
  • The child’s preference is confidential and will not be shared with the parents, siblings, or attorneys.
  • The reasoning behind a child’s preference is also considered, for example, if the child wants to live with parent because they don’t make the child perform chores or complete homework, the judge my rule to the contrary.

factor (j). Parent-child relationship

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.  A court may not consider negatively for the purposes of this factor any reasonable action taken by a parent to protect a child or that parent from sexual assault or domestic violence by the child’s other parent:
  • A child will do best when there is a healthy relationship between the child and each of their parents, therefore, each parent is encouraged to promote a healthy relationship with the other parent.
  • Does a parent encourage the child to spend time with the other parent?
  • How well do the parents cooperate in ensuring that the parenting time schedule is followed?
  • Do the parents make reasonable accommodations for each other?
  • Does a parent criticize the other parent in front of the child?
  • Is there a PPO in place for the protection of a parent or child?  If so, this factor will not be held against the parent who obtained the PPO if it was for good cause.

factor (k).  domestic violence

Domestic Violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child:
  • Has there been domestic violence by one of the parents?  This includes threatening behavior, emotionally abusive, verbally abusive or physical violence.
  • Has there been a pattern of abuse?
  • Has any remedial action been taken?
  • To what extent was the child involved in the abuse?

factor (l).  other factors

Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute:
  • This factor is a catch all and a family law court is a court of equity and can consider any factor that it finds relevant to the case such as:
  • Does the child require any special care and how well does each parent take care of the child’s needs?
  • Has either parent threatened to prevent the other parent from exercising their rights or threatened to kidnap the child?
  • Do the parents exercise their rights fully or have either parent missed parenting time or kept the child for too long?
  • How do the subsequent relationships of the parents affect the child’s best interest?
  • Where do the parents live and how far apart are they?
Custody disputes are difficult and require a level head. We suggest that you have proper representation in order to protect your rights and secure the best future for you and your child. Bahrie Law will work for you, helping provide the best methods and approach to successfully obtain parenting time schedule that works for you and your family.
We are here to help, use our 40+ years of knowledge, and expertise to successfully file or defend your case. Make sure your rights as a parent are protected, and that your child receives what is best for them. Contact Bahrie Law Today (517) 694-1300 for a Free Evaluation!