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How Can I Change Child Custody and/or the Parenting Time Schedule?

Custody and parenting time are modifiable upon a showing of a change of circumstances or proper cause. The process begins with the filing of a motion. The moving party must assert facts in the motion that support proper cause or a change of circumstances that will enable the Court to ultimately examine the “best interest factors” under the Child Custody Act. This first threshold is intended to “erect a barrier against removal of a child from an established custodial environment and to minimize unwarranted and disruptive changes of custody orders.”

“Proper cause means one or more appropriate grounds that have or could have a significant effect on the child’s life to the extent that a reevaluation of the child’s custodial situation should be undertaken.” As to what facts or grounds will fall within this definition, trial courts look for guidance in the twelve factors developed by the Legislature for determining what is in the child’s best interests. MCL 722.23(a)-(l). The grounds presented must be “legally sufficient,” i.e., they must be of a magnitude to have a significant effect on the child’s well-being to the extent that revisiting the custody order would be proper. Trial courts make this factual determination case by case.

“To establish a “change of circumstances,” a moving party must prove that, since the entry of the last custody order, the conditions surrounding custody of the child, which have or could have a significant effect on the child’s well-being, have materially changed. Again, not just any change will suffice, for over time there will always be some changes in a child’s environment, behavior, and well-being. Instead, the evidence must demonstrate something more than the normal life changes (both good and bad) that occur during the life of a child, and there must be at least some evidence that the material changes have had or will almost certainly have an effect on the child. This too will be a determination made on the basis of the facts of each case, with the relevance of the facts presented being gauged by the statutory best interest factors.”

The best interest factors of the Child Custody Act, MCL 722.23 and the parenting time factors, MCL 722.27a(6) are followed in modifying parenting time provisions. Per statute and case law, the frequency, duration and type of parenting time is determined according to the best interests of the child, including whether the child’s mental and emotional health would be endangered.

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