In custody cases, courts generally find that children benefit from having a continued relationship with both parents. However, the court’s role is to order an arrangement that is deemed to be in the child’s best interests. When parents disagree over who should have primary physical custody, the court will decide based on who can provide the child with the safest and most nurturing home environment.
A compelling case for custody requires strong evidence of good parenting. The case can be significantly bolstered by also showing that the other parent is less qualified. Each party can testify in court, but since parental testimony is self-serving, unbiased evidence is given greater weight. Third parties such as child custody experts, other family members and service providers may be called to testify. In addition, the court considers documentary evidence relating to the child, such as the following:
- Health records — The child’s health records can serve as an indicator of his or her physical care and nutrition. A history of multiple or unusual injuries can be evidence of inadequate supervision or even parental abuse.
- School records — Grades, incident reports and disciplinary records are germane to the child’s educational and developmental progress and can reflect parental involvement or neglect.
- Mental health experts — Sometimes, a judge will order an independent psychological evaluation of a child, which can be very valuable in assessing parental fitness.
- Photos and mementos — A child’s successful participation in extracurricular activities and hobbies can show that he or she is well adjusted. Photographs, certificates, awards and rosters of the child’s activities can be revealing as well.
In a disputed custody case, where one parent is trying to show that the other parent is less suitable or even unfit to raise the child, the following types of documentation can be relevant:
- Police reports and criminal records — If a parent has repeated or significant encounters with law enforcement, this alone can justify awarding custody to the other parent. This is especially true if there is a history of violence against a family member or of drug or alcohol abuse.
- Letters, e-mails, text messages — People sometimes make threats or admissions of misconduct in writing. These should all be archived and preserved for future use in court.
- Calendars — A parent’s failure to keep to a visitation schedule may be an indicator of irresponsibility. A parent should document any situation in which the other parent has failed to turn up for scheduled visitation or bring the child to an event or appointment.
Bear in mind that the court also considers each parent’s willingness help the child maintain a relationship with the other parent, so unduly disparaging the other parent can have a negative impact.
Dawson Family Law, PLLC in Sterling Heights has wide experience with Michigan child custody cases. Feel free to contact me online or call 833-671-4445 for an initial consultation.