Mother Awarded Sole Legal Custody

Case: Flint v. Sweetin

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )

Issues:

Child custody; Established custodial environment; MCL 722.27(1)(c); Mogle v. Scriver; Baker v. Baker; Foskett v. Foskett; Pierron v. Pierron; The statutory best-interest factors; MCL 722.23; “Joint custody” defined; MCL 722.26a(7)(b); Whether the parents will be able to cooperate & generally agree as to important decisions affecting the welfare of the child; MCL 722.26a(1) & (b); Principle that, if the parents cannot agree on essential decisions, joint legal custody is inappropriate; Fisher v. Fisher

Summary:

The court held that the trial court did not err by awarding defendant-mother sole legal custody and primary physical custody of the parties’ child and granting plaintiff-father parenting time. On appeal, the court rejected plaintiff’s argument that he was seeking to maintain the existing custodial environment and that the trial court improperly placed the burden of proof on him to show by clear and convincing evidence that it should be maintained. It found there was “no basis from which to conclude that the trial court was unaware that because there was an established custodial environment with both parents, any change to that environment had to be established by clear and convincing evidence.” It also rejected his claim that “‘the proposed change in schools, of approximately 40 miles, does not change the custodial environment so as to require a change of custody in this case and requires no modification of parenting time.’” It noted that “four additional trips each month is not particularly insignificant.” Further, the trial court was not “focusing solely on the convenience” for plaintiff when making its custody determination, and was favoring defendant on two of the best-interest factors. Moreover, its remarks about the school had a reasonable basis. Finally, the court rejected his contention that the trial court erred in awarding sole legal custody to defendant, noting its finding as to the education component was not against the great weight of the evidence, and the fact that domestic violence did not occur was not incompatible with a finding that the parties could not agree on certain issues and that their relationship was contentious. Affirmed.

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