Child custody orders are not permanent. In Michigan, either parent can petition the court to reconsider a legal custody order.
When considering the motion, a judge will go through some basic steps.
Establishing a proper cause
Custodial and non-custodial parents can file a motion to change custody, but a change in circumstances must exist. The petitioning parent must show the judge that the change has already or will cause a significant adjustment in the child’s life. Some acceptable reasons to modify custody include:
- One parent began abusing drugs or alcohol.
- One parent abused or neglected the child.
- Either parent is no longer present in the home.
A judge will likely not accept the child’s desire to change custody or normal shifts in their needs as a proper cause to adjust the original order.
Determining if the child has an ECE
The judge will look for an established custodial environment by identifying a custody order and determining if the child received care, comfort, love, security, discipline, stability and guidance while in the care of the present parent or parents.
If there is an ECE, the petitioning parent must meet the standard of clear and convincing evidence for a modification. Without an ECE, they only need to show a need for change by a preponderance of the evidence.
Considering the child’s best interests
The basis for any decision regarding a custody agreement is whether it will favor the child’s best interests. When an ECE is present, proving a need for modification is harder.
If you intend to petition for a custody modification, prepare to prove your request is best for your child.