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FAMILY LAW 26: To revisit a custody order, movant must show proper cause.

After the parties’ divorce in November 2012, plaintiff was granted sole legal and physical custody of the parties’ minor children.  In October 2017, defendant filed a motion to modify the children’s custodial arrangement concerning legal custody and also to modify the parenting-time schedule.

Defendant, in his motion requesting a change in the children’s custodial arrangement and in the parenting-time schedule, argued that

(1) his lack of legal representation before entry of the consent judgment of divorce resulted in an unusual custodial arrangement;

(2) he had attempted to persuade plaintiff to stipulate to a change in the children’s custodial environment and parenting-time schedule;

(3) he had a good relationship with his children;

(4) plaintiff had been allowing defendant to exercise alternative weekly parenting time with the children during the two preceding summers;

(5) plaintiff had frequently allowed defendant to exercise parenting time for one or two days during the week;

(6) plaintiff’s occupation as a preschool teacher and volleyball coach frequently required her to spend time working after school hours;

(7) defendant had acquired seasonal employment that allowed him to take time away from work for three to four months around winter, which he could spend with the children; and

(8) it would be in the children’s best interests to modify the custodial arrangement and parenting-time schedule.

The trial court conducted a hearing on defendant’s motion, indicating that the only issue it would address at the hearing was whether defendant had shown the requisite proper cause or change in circumstances to warrant a modification of parenting time or the children’s custodial arrangement.

Plaintiff’s counsel argued that defendant had not established proper cause or a change in circumstances as required under the standards.

The trial court concluded that defendant had not established proper cause or a change in circumstances sufficient to warrant a modification of parenting time or the children’s custodial arrangement. With regard to parenting time, specifically, the trial court noted that the parties were free to modify the parenting-time arrangement as they saw fit.

Under MCL 722.27(1)(c), a trial court may modify or amend its previous judgments or orders for proper cause shown or because of change of circumstances until the child reaches 18 years of age.

To establish “proper cause” necessary to revisit a custody order, a movant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence the existence of an appropriate ground for legal action to be taken by the trial court. The appropriate ground(s) should be relevant to at least one of the twelve statutory best interest factors, and must be of such magnitude to have a significant effect on the child’s well-being.

Our family law attorneys at Aldrich Legal Services have helped countless family law clients across southeast Michigan, including in Wayne, Washtenaw and Oakland counties, receive modifications that more fairly meet their needs. Contact us at our law firm in Plymouth. We can help you determine your chances of receiving a modification.

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