Domestic violence is a complicated issue that affects one in three families in Michigan. Often times, the victims of domestic violence fear taking action, but the safety of their children can spur a victim to action. Because both parents have a legal right to custody in Michigan, a divorcing spouse could have concerns about the abusive spouse being granted custody of children. When domestic violence is involved, however, Michigan divorce courts take this into account when deciding child custody and visitation rights.
How Custody is Determined in Michigan
When a couple with children gets divorced, custody will always be an issue. Both parents have equal right to custody, but if the question comes before a court, it is the judge that must decide what is in the “best interest of the child” as defined by MCL 722.23. Some of the factors a judge in Michigan will consider when deciding what type of custody arrangement will be best for the child include:
● The child’s bond with each parent;
● The ability of each parent to provide for the child, including food, medical expenses, clothing, and any other material needs;
● Each parent’s ability to continue the child’s education and religious upbringing (if any);
● The moral fitness of each parent;
● If the parent can continue to provide a stable environment for the child;
● Mental and physical health of both parents;
● What the child prefers, if the child is old enough to share the preference; and
● Any domestic violence that has been witnesses against the child.
Not only does the court look at these issues when deciding custody, they also are considered when deciding parenting time or visitation rights.
The Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody
Domestic violence is always considered by the court when deciding custody questions in Michigan, but it is only one factor. A parent may still be granted visitation rights or even custody even if domestic violence was present. This is because Michigan law presumes that it is best for children to have a close relationship with both parents and, in fact, children may be strongly bonded to a parent that was violent with their other parent. However, this is a rebuttable presumption. Because domestic abuse is complicated, each case must be decided individually.
In cases where the either parent was violent with the other parent, but not the children, the victim may feel unsafe. This, however, does not give them the right to deny custody or parenting time to the violent partner. Exchanging children in public places or having supervised visitations are some options available to ease the tension.
Are You a Victim of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is usually not the fault of the victim, yet many victims struggle with feelings of guilt and fear seeking help. If you are a victim of domestic abuse and are seeking a divorce, you should speak to an qualified attorney. Michael A. Robbins is one of Michigan’s leading family law attorneys and has years of experience dealing with both domestic abuse and divorce issues. For help, contact the Law Office of Michael A. Robbins online or by calling 248-646-7980. Mr. Robbins serves the Tri-County area of Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties, or greater Michigan, and can help with any questions you have regarding child custody, divorce, or domestic violence issues.