Judges making decisions as to custody and parenting time must consider a number of factors relating to the best interests of the children involved. Among those factors is whether each parent can provide the children with a stable and safe home environment. The moral fitness of the parents — as demonstrated by their behavior — also is a consideration. In contentious cases, parents might point fingers at each other’s personal habits as a way to discredit the other’s parental fitness. That is why it’s essential to demonstrate to the court the positive attributes that would support an award of custody and parenting time in your favor.
Under the Michigan Child Custody Act, judges have wide discretion in deciding a custody dispute. This goes beyond evaluating whether there has been any history or child abuse or domestic violence. Each parent’s lifestyle choices may be scrutinized for their possible detrimental effects on the health and safety of the children.
For instance, if a parent is struggling with alcoholism, substance abuse or addiction, that could be seen as negatively affecting the parent’s ability to provide care. In addition, the presence of drugs in the home, even if legal, may be deemed to create an unfit environment for a child. A parent’s habitual gambling or frequent socializing in the home could also be considered unhealthy influences on the child.
Other types of behavior might also come into question. Is a parent a poor housekeeper, such that the home is below an acceptable level of cleanliness? Does a parent fail to keep fresh food in the house or to provide nutritious meals? Is a parent careless about his or her personal hygiene or that of the child? Does a parent spend an inordinate amount of time watching TV or playing video games, which could distract the child from school work? And are there other people with access to the parent’s home, who could pose a potential danger to the child?
To make the strongest possible case for custody and parenting time, each parent should make extraordinary efforts to abstain from any behavior that could be a negative factor in the court’s analysis. If there is a history of alcoholism or substance abuse, the parent should be able to document that they are in the course of undergoing appropriate treatment and/or rehabilitation. A demonstrated effort to improve oneself can be a major positive factor.
If you are going through a divorce or child custody dispute in Michigan, you need experienced legal representation on your side. The attorneys at Dawson Family Law, PLLC in Sterling Heights is dedicated to protecting the rights of parents and children. We will work tirelessly to ensure that your interests are represented. Contact us online or call 833-671-4445 today to schedule a consultation.