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Court must make specific findings in determining whether established custodial environment exists; ECE can exist with both parents in more than one home

The trial court clearly erred in (1) failing to make any relevant findings and (2) by concluding that the parties' child's split time between the two homes precluded an ECE with either or both parties. Thus, the court vacated the trial court's order awarding the parties joint legal custody of their son and giving primary physical custody of the child to the plaintiff-mother, and remanded. The defendant-father argued that the trial court clearly erred by finding that no ECE existed with either party. In rendering its decision that an ECE did not exist with either party, the trial court simply stated that "there is no established custodial environment as the parties have essentially split their time with the child since their separation in 2011." The trial court did not further expand on or articulate any other reasoning, nor did it address any relevant factor under MCL 722.27(1)(c). For at least two reasons its decision was in error. First, the trial court was "required to make specific findings in support of its conclusion, and the statute requires several facts to be considered in deciding whether an" ECE exists. It made no pertinent findings. Second, and contrary to the trial court's stated justification, it is well established that an ECE "can exist with both parents and in more than one home if the child naturally looks to both the mother and father for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort." In light of the court's holding that the trial court erred in its conclusion as to an ECE, the court declined to address defendant's argument that the trial court's findings as to several of the best-interest factors were against the great weight of the evidence.

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